California set to become first state to introduce series of reparations bills

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The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) announced on Wednesday 14 reparations bills it plans to introduce as the first step to implement the policy proposals outlined in the report last summer by the Reparations Task Force.

In a press release, the caucus described the “2024 Reparations Priority Bill Package” as a “multi-year effort to implement the legislative recommendations in the report.”

In introducing the 14 measures, California will become the first state to implement concrete legislative proposals to enact reparations, a movement that has been growing in recent years.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more! As laid out in the report, we need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism,” CLBC Chair Lori Wilson said in the press release.

“This year’s legislative package tackles a wide range of issues; from criminal justice reforms to property rights to education, civil rights and food justice. The Caucus is looking to make strides in the second half of this legislative session as we build towards righting the wrongs of California’s past in future sessions,” Wilson added.

Among the proposals is an amendment to the California Constitution to “allow the State to fund programs for the purpose of increasing the life expectancy of, improving educational outcomes for, or lifting out of poverty specific groups.”

Another amendment would “prohibit involuntary servitude for incarcerated persons.”

One measure addresses “property takings,” and one would allow for the restoration of “property taken during race-based uses of eminent domain to its original owners or provide another effective remedy where appropriate, such as restitution or compensation.”

The first step in laying out the package will be “a resolution that recognizes that harm and a subsequent bill that requests a formal apology by the Governor and the Legislature for the role that the State played in the human rights violation and crimes against humanity on African Slaves and their descendants.”

The 14 measures are categorized under primary topics: Education, Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Reform, Health and Business.

Education proposals include creating grants to increase enrollment in STEM-related CTE programs at high school and college levels. One measure also proposes “career education financial aid for redlined communities.”

In addition to addressing property, the civil rights proposals would include, for example, extending the CROWN Act to prohibit discrimination based on certain hairstyles, explicitly in competitive sports.

Criminal justice reform proposals would eliminate the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) practice of banning books without proper oversight, restrict solitary confinement within CDCR detention facilities, and establish grants to fund community-driven solutions to decrease violence at the family, school and neighborhood levels.

Health measures would require advance notice to community stakeholders before grocery stores shut down in underserved or at-risk communities, and another would “make medically supportive food and nutrition interventions, when deemed medically necessary.”

The sole business proposal would eliminate barriers to those obtaining occupational licenses for people with criminal records.

The California Secretary of State praised the announcement, writing, “I am optimistic and encouraged by the work, and look forward to amazing and ground breaking outcomes. The nation is waiting for us to lead. And as California always does, we will lead in addressing a delayed justice called Reparations.”

Assemblymember and Task Force member Reggie Jones-Sawyer said in a statement, “We will endeavor to right the wrongs committed against black communities through laws and policies designed to restrict and alienate African Americans.”

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