Groups that favor reparations for African-Americans in California, such as the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, sent a letter to Gavin Newsom earlier this week urging him not to sign an upcoming bill that would extend the life of the task force from an end date of 2023 to an end date of 2024.
Assembly Bill 2296, authored by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), would specifically remove set terms of office for task force members and would instead remove them whenever the appointing authority seems fit. The Task Force itself would also be allowed to set up subcommittees and advisory bodies to help complete their intended duties. Another year would also be given to allow more time to finish up their respective reports, with a revised Task Force end date of July 1, 2024.
Since the original bill setting up the reparations task force was signed into law in 2020, in which boundaries were set up allowing the future task force to document and look into issues surrounding slavery in California, as well as issue recommendations into what, if any, reparations would be given, many controversies have come up. Most notably, the decision to limit payouts to the descendants of slaves only rather than all black Californians and the initial report calling for reparations to be given divided many people, with the former tearing apart reparations supporters on the issue.
With more issues and questions over reparations arising, along with polls showing that the majority of citizens don’t support reparations to be given, Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer wrote AB 2296 to allow the task force more time to help complete the final reports.
“Black economic growth and prosperity have been critically hindered by racist policies aimed at suppressing African Americans even after end of slavery,” said Jones-Sawyer earlier this year. “I believe that State Legislators will be receptive of the report’s analysis, but remain true to their obligation of questioning approach, costs, and implementation. The Reparations Task Force should remain empaneled for another year to help guide, advise, and review any issues or questions that may arise. The need to have the Task Force available to furnish its experts to help with matters once the Legislature determines what, if anything, comes from these studies will be crucial to the success of this monumental step towards healing.”
While the bill was popular with many legislators, most Republicans, along with a few Democrats, waged a small opposition against the bill for several reasons, including many seeing the extension as unnecessary and the added year for the task force being a drain of state resources and funds. Ultimately however, the bill passed both houses last month, ending at 32-6 in the Senate and 59-13 in the Assembly.
A possible reparations task force extension into 2024
AB 2296 was at first seen as a smooth-sailing bill to be signed by Newsom. However, pro-reparations groups have since said that the bill will instead politicize the process with members let go at any time, and that if more time is given the more likely the task force’s recommendations will amount to nothing happening. Especially worrying for groups like Coalition for a Just and Equitable California is that the task force itself has not asked for more time, signaling that other factors are in play here.
“We’re hearing concerns that it’s not going to happen, that this is not going to result in anything,” said Coalition for a Just and Equitable California organizer Chris Lodgson. “This is why we do not need a delay of this work.”
Others noted that many are now coming out against the bill due to a delay of the final task force report giving those against reparations another year to prepare for a likely legal battle.
“A lot of people are against reparations,” explained legal adviser Richard Weaver to the Globe on Tuesday. “A years’ delay would absolutely help them pull out even more legal stops against reparations from being given. It’s a lot more time to comb over laws, gather evidence, and so many other things to stop this. The bill may help them, but it helps the other side too.”
AB 2296 is currently on Governor Newsom’s desk, awaiting to either be signed into law or vetoed.
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