California lawmakers fight with competing reparations plans

Reparation activists are at odds with California lawmakers, claiming the California Legislative Black Caucus’s slate of 14 proposed legislation measures introduced in January does not go far enough to mend the wrongdoings of slavery for black residents. 

The slate of reparation bills comes as the state is dealing with a $70 billion deficit, with several lawmakers focusing on education and public outreach as more important than reparations. Talk of reparations is quite unpopular with the majority of Californians, with 60% opposed to the idea. 

State Sen. Steven Bradford, a member of the California Reparations Task Force, introduced his own set of reparation bills, which haven’t all been included in the CLBC’s priority reparations legislation. Chris Lodgson, with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, has embraced Bradford’s efforts and has disapproved of the CLBC for its slate of bills introduced. 

“We are so mad at them,” Lodgson told CalMatters. “We’re mad at them in a hopefully productive way.” 

Bills included in the CLBC’s reparation slate are measures that provide property tax relief in redlined communities, limit solitary confinement in state prisons, and mandate an apology from California and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) for the state’s history of racism. Bradford has a bill included in the slate that would create a database of California residents whose land was taken through eminent domain. None of the 14 bills slated include a plan to give direct payments to black residents.

“It’s almost insulting to call their bills reparations,” Lodgson said.

The caucus narrowed down 26 bills recommended by the task force to 14. The hope is to get the bills to pass the chamber by May 24 in order to stay alive this session. 

Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Wilson said other pieces of legislation proposed by members are not in opposition to the caucus but instead focus on just a few bills that have a stronger chance of passage.

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“We ended up coming up with 14 bills that everybody was ‘all in’ on,” Wilson said. 

The slate of reparations follows a two-year investigation and inquiry by the California Reparations Task Force, which cost taxpayers $1 million. 

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