When will the Legislature vote on California reparations?

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La June 23, 2023
Presented by Dairy Cares, Southern California Gas Company, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership and Politifest 2023

When will the Legislature vote on California reparations?

From Wendy Fry of CalMatters’ California Divide team and CalMatters politics intern Rya Jetha:

Next Thursday, California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations plans to hand over to the state Legislature its extensive report and recommendations for how to compensate eligible Black Californians for the enduring harms of slavery. 

As historic a moment it may be, it won’t mean advocates of reparations have crossed the finish line. 

Lawmakers will then have to decide which of the task force’s recommendations they want to turn into bills for consideration. Those bills will then have to be voted on by the Assembly and Senate, and if approved, sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom to be signed into law or vetoed. And all that may not happen until next year. 

“For the most part, chances are there will not be legislation produced this legislative year,” state Sen. Steven Bradford — a Democrat from Gardena, task force member and vice chairperson of the Legislative Black Caucus — told CalMatters on Wednesday. 

“The recommendations will probably come in the form of a bill that will be introduced probably at its earliest in December of this year and it will move through the process in the next legislative cycle,” he said. 

After more than two years, hundreds of hours of public meetings and thousands of pages of public documents, the centerpiece of the task force’s recommendations is economic modeling for how the state can calculate how much each eligible Black Californian may be owed

Economists estimate eligible Black residents may be owed a total of more than $800 billion for decades of over-policing, disproportionate incarceration and housing discrimination. The $800 billion is more than two-and-a-half times the total spending in California’s $300 billion-plus annual budget

That price tag has been met with a cold response from other lawmakers and Newsom, who signed the law creating the task force. Very few lawmakers have spoken in favor of the task force’s recommendations and Newsom’s office continues to say the governor is waiting for the final report to be released.  

Bradford has floated the idea of diverting 0.5% of the state’s annual budget to generate a $1.5 billion annuity to fund reparations programs and payments over time.

“To their defense, in a sense, many are saying ‘We’re waiting for the final report,’ which will be out next week. And then we’ll see where our real allies are at, after that,” Bradford said. 

According to the Department of Justice, the final report is expected to look nearly identical to the draft of the final report that the task force approved at its last meeting in May, which is already available online

The task force’s final meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the first floor auditorium in the March Fong Eu Secretary of State building in the 1500 block of 11th Street. 

Reparations calculator: CalMatters has created an interactive tool to estimate how much someone might be owed in reparations for slavery and racism. Look it up here, watch a TikTok about it, see it on Instagram and read the full story from Wendy Fry of CalMatters’ California Divide team.


CalMatters is growing: Our nonprofit newsroom is adding staffers to fulfill our mission to inform Californians. Read more about the new folks from our engagement team.

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1 A campaign to end child marriages

Child marriage survivors stage a "chain-in" protest to show their support to ban the practice in California, during a press conference at the state Capitol in Sacramento on June 22, 2023. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters
Child marriage survivors stage a “chain-in” protest to show their support to ban the practice in California, during a press conference at the state Capitol in Sacramento on June 22, 2023. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters

As protests at the state Capitol go, it was an uncommon sight: Women in white bridal gowns and veils, their wrists chained together and their mouths taped shut. 

But so was the issue: California is one of only seven states that doesn’t ban child marriages.

Forced marriage is classified as a human rights abuse by the U.S. State Department and a form of modern slavery by the International Labor Organization, writes CalMatters’ politics intern Rya Jetha.

Yet, there is no minimum age to get married in California (as long as you have permission from a parent and a court), even though you must be at least 18 to file for divorce. 

It’s a situation that advocates from the national nonprofit Unchained At Last and other women’s rights organizations are determined to change.

  • Fraidy Reiss, a forced marriage survivor and founder of Unchained At Last: “We are here in gowns and chains to demand an end to a human rights abuse and nightmarish legal trap that gives get-out-of-jail-free cards to child rapists.”

In 2017, California was going to be the first state to pass an absolute ban on marriages for those younger than 18. But due to opposition from organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Children’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood, the measure eventually became watered down. 

At the time, opponents argued that the bill intruded on the “fundamental rights of marriage” and that “for some minors, the decision to marry is based on positive, pro-social factors.”

In the end, the measure that was eventually signed into law only required a judge and Family Court Services to interview both parties, including guardians, to the marriage to confirm that no abuse or trafficking was taking place. 

But advocates say that’s not enough and are rallying legislators to ban child marriages. 

Sen. Aisha Wahab, a Democrat from Fremont, authored such a proposal but has amended it so it only makes it a misdemeanor for someone to officiate a religious or secular union between a minor and another person. And Democratic Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris from Irvine, who spoke at Thursday’s rally, plans to introduce legislation next year that would outright ban child marriage. 

  • Petrie-Norris: “I am committed to ending this human rights abuse in California. One child forced into marriage is one too many…. When it comes to child marriage, we aren’t leading, we aren’t even following. We are failing.”

2 Responding to mental health calls

Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies in Sacramento on Feb. 28, 2022. Photo by Rahul Lal, Sipa USA via Reuters
Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies in Sacramento on Feb. 28, 2022. Photo by Rahul Lal, Sipa USA via Reuters

All across the state, people dial 911 for various reasons: To report a crime in progress, to receive emergency services or to seek help during a mental health crisis. But following public outcry for police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, communities are reconsidering deploying law enforcement during times of personal crises.

For the most part, law enforcement agencies and their unions support the idea of an “alternative response” to mental health crisis calls, reports California Healthline. After all, it could free up officers so they can focus on crime prevention. But they’re also reluctant to relinquish the money and resources that come with the authority over the 911 system.

  • Tim Davis, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, to California Healthline: “Our 911 dispatchers do an amazing job and are the perfect people to handle those in crisis. It is imperative that 911 remain under the direction of the police department, as the majority of the calls they receive are for police services.”

Without the relevant training, however, police officers who respond to these distressing situations for which they are ill-prepared can make things worse. On the topic of “suicide by cop” — when people purposely provoke armed law enforcement officers — Edward Obayashi, deputy sheriff and policy advisor for the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, said during a CalMatters event last week that more law enforcement agencies across the state have stopped responding to suicidal calls: “We show up, and bad things happen…. Typically, by not showing up, it resolves itself.”

(This is known as tactical disengagement and is not a universal practice among all police departments.) 

Some counties and cities already include behavioral health clinicians as part of patrols, including San Mateo, Sacramento and Humboldt counties. In Los Angeles, the police department moved its mental health unit to frontline response. CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff wrote about the mobile crisis team in Nevada County last year.

And more could be in the works, though not anytime soon: Sen. Wahab has a bill that would require 911 service centers to dispatch EMS, mental health or non-sworn unarmed police personnel for incidents involving “mental health or homelessness” in lieu of police officers. The measure is on hold until next year. 


CalMatters for Learning: From our engagement team: lesson-plan-ready versions of our explainers on housing and homelessness, electric vehicles, wage theft, water and state government — all especially made for teachers, libraries and community groups, as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative.


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