CA Ass'y Will Take Up These Two Bills (1) CA Study On Reparations For Slavery; and (2) CA Constitutional Amendment Inviting CA Voters To Repeal Prop 209 That Banned Racial Preferences In Gov't Hiring/Contracting/Public Education/College Admissions
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|(June 3, 2020) -- On party line votes (Democrats supporting, Republicans opposed) the Assembly Appropriations Committee (chair: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D, San Diego) today (June 3) advanced two hot button bills to the full Assembly.
AB 3121 (full text here) would initiate a state study of reparations for slavery; The bill would require the Task Force to recommend, among other things, "the form of compensation that should be awarded, the instrumentalities through which it should be awarded, and who should be eligible for this compensation" and require a written report to the state legislature on its findings and recommendations. The bill has multiple co-authors and could be enacted by majority votes in the Dem-majority Assembly and state Senate.
Both bills are authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D, San Diego) who authored last year's SB 392 that changed CA's standard for justifiable use of lethal force by a police officer
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AB 3121 would establish a "Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans " with 8 members: 2 chosen by the Governor, three by the President Pro Tem of the state Senate and three by the Assembly Speaker [all currently Dems.] Up to four can be members of the state legislature and each appointing authority can appoint up to two members from the same political party.
At minimum four appointees must "represent major civil society and reparations organizations that have historically championed the cause of reparatory justice" and "shall be drawn from diverse backgrounds to represent the interests of communities of color throughout the state, have experience working to implement racial justice reform, and, to the extent possible, represent geographically diverse areas of the state."
The bill doesn’t speak solely in terms of reparations for slavery. (CA wasn’t a slave state.) It empowers a state legislature created Task Force to also consider what it calls slavery’s ongoing legacy of discriminatory policies and practices that it argues continue to the present day.
The Task Force would require the Task Force to recommend, among other things, "the form of compensation that should be awarded, the instrumentalities through which it should be awarded, and who should be eligible for this compensation." It would also require the Task Force to submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the state legislature.
Presumptive Democrat Presidential candidate Joe Biden has voiced support for a "study" of reparations while stopping short of supporting reparations themselves. As the Washington Post noted in a July 2019 analysis, former President Obama, America's first African-American President, isn't a descendant of black slaves; his father immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya to attend graduate school. As a 2008 presidential candidate, Obama argued that the political will didn't exist to provide reparations and thus favored pursuing what he called more practical policy goals.
It's unclear if the former Presdient's views on reparations hhve changed since then.
Last year, the CA Ass'y approved and sent to the state Senate Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR) 21 by Assemblywoman Gonzalez. The measure would voice the CA Legislature's support for H.R. 40, to establish a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans, now in the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D, TX) with co-sponsors including Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D, LB-west OC) and others listed here.
AJR 21 would also apologize for CA's complicity in slavery and make a number of findings and declarations. All LB Assemblymembers (including O'Donnell and Gipson) joined as co-authors. 58 Assembly Dems voted for it; 4 Repubs voted against it, and 17 Repubs chose "no vote recorded." AJF 21 is now in the state Senate's Rules Committee.
If approved by 2/3 of the Assembly and state Senate, ACA 5 would put a measure on an upcoming statewide ballot in which a majority of CA voters could repeal Prop 209, the 1996 petition-initiated measure that [legislative counsel's digest] "prohibits the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. The California Constitution defines the state for these purposes to include the state, any city, county, public university system, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of, or within, the state."
On May 5, 2020, ACA 5 cleared the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee on a 6-1 vote...with LB Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell among those voting "yes." On June 3, the Assembly Appropriations Committee sent the bill to the full Assembly floor with all Committee Dems voting "yes" and all Committee Repubs voting "no."
June 15: Text added noting that the bill doesn’t speak solely in terms of reparations for slavery but includes consideration of what it calls slavery’s ongoing legacy of discriminatory policies
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