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Gov. Newsom Vetoes Bill to Extend Term of Reparations Task Force

Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) Assemblymember Reggie Jones Swayer (D) Los Angeles

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Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

On Sept. 29, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill (AB) 2296 authored by Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

The bill proposed extending the term for the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans by an additional year until July 1, 2024.

“I am returning Assembly Bill 2296 without my signature,” Newsom said in a written statement. “At the request of the author of the original legislation that created this task force, I am vetoing this bill.”

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber authored AB 3121 the legislation establishing the task force in 2020 – while serving in the Assembly. The task force was formed to study slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans with a “special consideration” for descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.

Jones-Sawyer is a member of the Task Force.

As written, AB 2296 would “remove the specified term of office for appointees and, instead, subject the appointees to removal at the pleasure of their appointing authority.”

That action would authorize the Task Force, by majority vote, to elect officers and create advisory bodies and subcommittees to accomplish its duties.

Currently, Los Angeles attorney Kamilah Moore is the task force chair and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown of San Francisco serves as vice chair.

The Task Force consists of nine members. Five of them are appointed by the Governor, two members are appointed by the President pro Tempore of the Senate, and another two are appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly.

The Assembly passed AB 2296 with a 59-13 majority vote. In the Senate, it passed 32-6 at the end of August. It was sent to the Governor on Sept. 9 for his signature.

Jones-Sawyer avoided making any public comment about AB 2296 since introducing the bill in the Assembly on Feb. 16, 2022.

At a two-day meeting in Los Angeles on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24 at the California Science Center and the Wallis Annenberg Building in Exposition Park, Jones-Sawyer made a public statement about the bill.

“The Task Force report will be completed on time as richly envisioned by Dr. Shirley Weber. It will not be delayed and will be done (July 1, 2023) whether the governor signs my bill or not,” Sawyer said. However, he avoided commenting on the removal of members mentioned in the bill.

Many speakers during public comment at the first day of the meeting voiced concerns about extending the Reparations Task Force sunset date for an additional year.

Jones-Sawyer said his intention to extend the task force was to allow members to lobby the Assembly and Senate legislators who may not be in favor of the recommendations or “dollar amount.”

“That is the purpose why I wanted this group to stay together, not to hold up part of the report, but to keep this group together so they can lobby our colleagues and other individuals who may not be in line or in lockstep with what we want to do. And there are several of them who are not in line with what we want to do,” Sawyer said.

The members of the Coalition of a Just and Equity California (CJEC) and other advocate groups for reparations conducted a month-long continuous social media campaign on all platforms and made pleas to the public to call the governor’s office urging Newsom to veto AB 2296.

“The Governor made the right decision. As Reparations advocates, our job is to make sure the Reparations development process is open, transparent, led by the descendant community, and free from political influence,” said Chris Lodgson, a member of CJEC. “We are thankful to Governor Newsom and Secretary Weber for agreeing with us, as well as everyone who reached out to the Governor or encouraged people to reach out to the Governor to help achieve this victory. AB 2296 was a bad bill and deserved to be vetoed.”

The San Francisco Black and Jewish Unity Coalition offered its support against the bill when it was asked by Rev. Brown and Weber to “reach out” to all the

participants in the “Teach-In on Reparations: for African Americans in California and San Francisco.”

Brown and Weber were guest speakers at the teach-in held in San Francisco on Sept. 18 at the Congregation Sherith Israel. The Unity Coalition is a grassroots organization, made up of people of faith and/or social activists, committed to the causes of racial, social, and economic justice and to dismantling systemic racism at the local, regional and national levels.

“Please immediately contact Governor Gavin Newsom’s office and ask him to veto the Jones-Sawyer legislation — AB 2296 — that would extend the term of the (California) State Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans and open up the opportunity to remove and replace members,” the coalition said in a statement to the teach-in participants. “The work of the Task Force is on track and on schedule, and we need to stay the course. The Task Force has not asked for an extension.”

On June 1, the Task Force submitted its interim report to the California Legislature. The interim report covers the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today.

A final report will be issued before July 1, 2023.


California Legislature Recognizes Reparations Task Force

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media-Posted: June 23, 2022

From left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. (Antonio Ray Harvey/CBM)

Several members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans received a standing ovation from constituents of the State Legislature last week for their work over the last 12 months.

During the opening of legislative sessions at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 16, members of the Senate and Assembly participated in the gesture that coincided with the kickoff of the state’s official Juneteenth 2022 commemorations.

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

Bradford, who was appointed to the task force by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, made his remarks on the Senate floor after fellow task force panelist Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) delivered similar comments in the Assembly chambers.

Seven of the nine task force members and staff from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) were recognized at the event.

Task force members attending the ceremony were chairperson Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; vice-chair Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s; Dr. Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States and the only non-Black member of the panel, was also in attendance.

Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon met briefly with the panel.

Task force members Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego Councilmember and Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, could not make the trip due to prior commitments.

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Several members of the CLBC attended the function, which coincided with the passage of resolution in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday in the Assembly.

Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Akila Weber (D-La Mesa), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and CLBC vice-chair Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) showed up to support the task force members’ efforts.

The Task Force first convened on June 1, 2021, to conduct an examination of the lasting consequences of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants.

Under Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who is currently Secretary of State of California, the nine-member panel is charged with making recommendations for how the state can compensate Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved African Americans.

On June 1, the task force released its first interim report, a 483-page document compiled by the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

“The information in the interim report reveals uncovered facts about incidents that disproportionately and negatively affected Black Californians in California for 170-plus years and the country for the last 400 years,” Grills said.

“Until we have a reckoning with the truth, we cannot understand who we are as a nation. When we then begin to have that kind of reckoning, I think the specific manifestation of the harm will be easier to deal with and we will actually have an opportunity for transformative change,” Grills continued.

Over the next 12 months, Moore told California Black Media (CBM) that the task force will focus on bringing increased awareness for the interim report, community engagement, and formulating a framework of how California should compensate around 2 to 2.6 million Black Californians.

‘“It’s important that the California legislature understand how important this effort is,” Moore told CBM. “This past year we’ve been working incredibly hard. The next (12 months) I categorized it as the development stage where the nine-member task force has substantive and intentional conversations about what reparations should look like.”

Video link of Sen. Steven Bradford and Dr. Cheryl Grills at the state capitol in Sacramento:  .California Task Force For Reparations at State Capitol 6.16.2022

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