Creating a reparations committee

Hundreds gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza downtown Oakland on May 29, 2020 in solidarity with protesters in Minneapolis against the killing of George Floyd by police officers earlier this week. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Hundreds gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland on May 29, 2020, in solidarity with protesters in Minneapolis against the killing of George Floyd by police officers earlier in the week. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

By Elizabeth Castillo

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 3121 would establish a nine-member task force to inform Californians about slavery and recommend ways the state can provide reparations. The committee would submit its findings to the Legislature. The bill, by San Diego Assemblymember Shirley Weber, a Democrat, had been quietly weaving through the Legislature before protests nationwide erupted over the death of George Floyd.

WHO SUPPORTS IT?

Supporters include the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the American Civil Liberties Union of California, a large coalition of social justice groups and several politicians, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.

WHO’S OPPOSED?

Republican lawmakers largely voted against the proposal. Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican, believes that “the federal level is a more appropriate place for this discussion to take place,” according to his chief of staff.  Some Republicans, including state Senators Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar and Brian Dahle of Bieber, voted in favor.  

WHY IT MATTERS

The task force would not have the power to implement reparations, but it would try to answer questions about who would pay and who would get paid. Descendants of people who were enslaved would get special consideration for payment. Five members would be appointed by the governor, while the Assembly speaker and the Senate’s president pro tempore would appoint two each. California joined the Union as a “free state,” but it enacted a fugitive slave law in the 1850s that allowed slaves as long as they were eventually moved back to the South.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

“This is not just about California. This is about making an impact and a dent across the rest of the country and that, I think, drives a lot of our work here in the state,” Newsom said at a virtual signing ceremony Sept. 30. Attendees included Weber, other members of the Legislative Black Caucus, and rapper and “Friday” actor Ice Cube.