California Lawmakers Introduce Package of Reparations Bills in ‘Historic First Step’

California Lawmakers Introduce Package of Reparations Bills in ‘Historic First Step’

From left, State Sen. Steven Bradford, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, task force member Lisa Holder and Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer hold up a final report of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans during a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, June 29, 2023. The report heads to lawmakers who will be responsible for turning policy recommendations into legislation. Reparations will not happen until lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom agree. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

2/2/2024

Updated: 2/6/2024

The California Legislative Black Caucus released on Jan. 31 the 14 pieces of legislation that the group plans to prioritize in 2024, following through on recommendations made last year by the state’s reparations task force.
“This is a defining moment not only California’s history but American history, as well,” state Sen. Steven Bradford told reporters on Feb. 1. “These policies have an impact that is needed right now to start to repair some of the harms defined in the report.”
Some proposals were introduced last year, others this month, and more are coming, according to the caucus, before the Legislature’s Feb. 16 deadline to introduce new bills.
Mr. Bradford said such measures are necessary to correct the “integral role” that California played in slavery by having a fugitive slave law, which threatened to return slaves to states from where they had escaped.
“We still have a debt. This is not charity; this is not a handout,” he said. “This is what was promised, it’s what was owed, and it’s 160 years overdue.”
Mr. Bradford introduced a bill that would compensate for property taken because of racial bias; he said that down payment and mortgage assistance, along with property tax relief, is needed to right wrongs.

No Cash Payments Proposed

From a formal apology to prison reform efforts, the proposals cover a range of topics focusing on education, civil rights, and access to food, although no cash payments are included.
“We’re early in this. We’d all love to see cash payments, but we’ve got to be realistic about it,” Mr. Bradford said. “Reparations were never about cash payments. It was about land, and that’s what we’re trying to assist.”
A fellow Democrat colleague agreed and said the matter would require a multifaceted solution.
“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations, the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said in the statement. “As laid out in the report, we need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism.”
California Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson speaks to the state Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento on March 21, 2023. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

California Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson speaks to the state Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento on March 21, 2023. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Legislators are looking to implement the 115 recommendations made by the reparations report, issued in June 2023 after two years of studying slavery and the subsequent effects on Californians who are descendants.
Considering the complexity of the issue, Ms. Wilson suggested that they would take time to develop.
“The Caucus is looking to make strides in the second half of this legislative session as we build toward righting the wrongs of California’s past in future sessions,” she said.
One task force member and author of bills to be introduced soon—including one requesting a formal apology and another that would address community violence—said the proposals would help to correct injustices highlighted in the 1,600 pages written by the reparations panel. The nine-member group is made up of academics, politicians, and civil rights advocates, with five positions appointed by the governor and two each by the leaders of the Senate and Assembly.
“We will endeavor to right the wrongs committed against black communities through laws and policies designed to restrict and alienate African Americans,” Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer said in the statement. “These atrocities are found in education, access to homeownership, and to capital for small business startups, all of which contributed to the denial of generational wealth over hundreds of years.”
The state began studying reparations with the passage of Assembly Bill 3121 in 2020. Introduced by then Assemblywoman and now Secretary of State Shirley Weber, the bill established the reparations task force.
She applauded the legislators’ efforts and said the state is acting as a national leader.
“I am pleased that the California Legislative Black Caucus has picked up the baton and is moving the state forward in addressing the recommendations delivered to them seven months ago,” Ms. Weber said in the statement. “The nation is waiting for us to lead. And as California always does, we will lead in addressing a delayed justice called reparations.”
Ms. Weber’s daughter, Assemblywoman Akilah Weber, introduced a resolution recognizing and accepting responsibility for the harms committed by representatives of the state who “promoted, facilitated, enforced, and permitted the institution of chattel slavery.”
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 7, proposed by Assemblyman Corey Jackson, would allow for payments to “specific groups,” but has been panned by critics as discriminatory and potentially unconstitutional.
“ACA 7 is a new attempt to remove the hurdle. ... in the Constitution so tax money can be spent legally on reparations,” Tony Guan, a California resident and vice president of the Equal Rights for All Political Action Committee, posted on Jan. 29 on X, formerly known as Twitter. “[This would give] the governor the power to exercise racial discrimination.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) and Assemblyman Corey Jackson in Sacramento on Sept. 25, 2023. (Courtesy of Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) and Assemblyman Corey Jackson in Sacramento on Sept. 25, 2023. (Courtesy of Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom)

Another proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit involuntary servitude for prison inmates. Additional measures address solitary confinement and prison book banning.
Other bills under consideration include one that would expand access to technical education and opportunities and another yet to be introduced that would provide financial aid for career education in disadvantaged communities.
Hairstyles are the focus of two measures: one that would prohibit discrimination in sports, and another that would require beauty care license instruction and exams to include information for all varieties and textures of hair.
Seeking to improve access to nutritious food, another bill would make food a Medi-Cal benefit, and another would notify residents when grocery stores are planning to leave the community.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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