SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California cemented a major milestone earlier this year when a government-appointed committee recommended that Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers provide reparations to the descendants of enslaved people.
Now, advocates for reparations want to sustain their momentum by urging Newsom to veto a bill that would give the committee more time to finish its mandate to evaluate how the state should compensate Black people for decades of discrimination.
The current deadline for the reparations task force report is July 1, 2023, but legislation sits on Newsom’s desk that could push back the deadline to July 1, 2024.
One advocate, Chris Lodgson of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, opposes the extension, arguing that “reparations delayed is reparations denied.”
“We want this bill vetoed so we can stay on the great track we’re on,” said Lodgson. “We’re calling on people in the public to call the governor’s office and leave a comment urging him to veto AB 2296.”
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Los Angeles Democrat, wrote the measure, Assembly Bill 2296. He is a member of the reparations task force. He wanted the group to have more time in the interest of completing a thorough examination of reparations and systemic harm to Black communities.
“This work takes time and even after the report is published, there will undoubtedly be work to do beyond the current July 1, 2023 sunset date,” Jones-Sawyer said in a written statement on the bill.
Newsom in 2020 signed the law that created the California Reparations Task Force. It’s charged with identifying and compiling evidence validating the institution of slavery existed within the United States and recommending the form of compensation that should be awarded to descendants of enslaved people.
“Advancing this cause where it’s not just a question on a questionnaire for a candidate running for office but actually taking shape here, that’s a meaningful moment,” Newsom said before he signed the bill. “This conversation is so long overdue.”
The task force in March issued a report recommending that California provide reparations to descendants of enslaved people and to Black families who can trace their lineage to the 19th century. In June, it issued a second report describing the effects of discrimination against Black households, and urging different kinds of relief to account for longstanding inequities in health, income, criminal justice and education.
Lodgson told The Sacramento Bee in during a phone interview that the California Reparations Task Force is “ahead of schedule” in terms of finalizing the report and does not believe the task force needs more time.
“We don’t think this effort to extend the end date of the task force is necessary,” said Lodgson.
In addition to extending the deadline, the bill could allow leaders to remove and replace task force members.
Currently, the task force consists of nine members, which include five members appointed by Newsom, two members appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, and two members appointed by the speaker of the Assembly.
“If there’s a change in the governor, or the speaker, or the leader in the Senate they could remove task force members and we find this to be very dangerous,” said Lodgson. “It’s absolutely a risk.”
The deadline for Newsom to sign or veto the bill is Sept. 30.
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