Reparations advocates call on California governor to veto bill

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A community organization that pushed to create California’s first African-American reparations task force is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto legislation extending the committee’s deadline to complete its work.

The Coalition for a Fair and Just California and other organizations sent a letter to Newsom, a Democrat, last week saying the legislation from Task Force member Reggie Jones-Sawyer would send a message demoralizing to African Americans already skeptical of their receiving reparations.

The task force’s final report assessing compensation due to descendants of slaves will be released within its original deadline — by July 1, 2023 — even if the legislation is approved, Jones-Sawyer said. But he argues the committee needs to stay intact long enough to push “what we think the reparations should be or to have additional meetings”.

“We will submit our report on time,” he said. “We will move forward and request reparations in time.”

The legislation changes the expiration date from July 1, 2023 to July 1, 2024, extending what was originally a two-year committee to three. The bill also allows the nine members of the task force, appointed by Newsom and the two legislative leaders, to be removed at any time. The provision was included in case a member did something “problematic,” Jones-Sawyer said.

Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Fair and Just California, said the task force did not ask for or need more time. Allowing members to be removed renders the process political, he said.

“We’re hearing concerns that it won’t happen, that it won’t result in anything,” he said. “That’s why we don’t need to delay this work.”

His coalition helped push for groundbreaking legislation in 2020 to create a task force to study the effects of slavery. The mission of the committee, which first met in June 2021, is to document California’s role in perpetuating discrimination against African Americans, develop a formal government apology, and draft a complete repair plan.

National reparations advocates have praised California for its leadership in a country where reparations efforts have stalled in Congress.

The task force voted 5-4 in March to limit reparations to descendants of black people who were in the United States in the 19th century, overruling Jones-Sawyer and others who wanted to extend compensation to all black people in the United States. United, regardless of ancestry. . This latter group argued that it may be too difficult for people to prove their connection to enslaved ancestors and that all blacks suffered discrimination regardless of lineage.

The task force is due to meet Sept. 23-24 in Los Angeles for the first time since releasing its comprehensive report on how the effects of slavery still persist in California and nationally across large disparities between white and black communities in health, income, education, incarceration and employment.

Jones-Sawyer said the task force may have to double down on work to complete the final report on time, but ultimately Californians will be “very, very proud of the work we’ve done.”

“I sincerely believe that this will be the benchmark that everyone in this country will use when it comes to reparations,” he said.

Task force chair Kamilah Moore declined to comment, saying rules prevent her from speaking about pending legislation or upcoming issues before the group.

The governor’s office declined to comment on the pending legislation.

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Associated Press writer Sophie Austin in Sacramento also contributed to this report. Austin is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative body. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Sophie Austin on Twitter.

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