California Governor Gavin Newsom signed four bills into law on Wednesday addressing racism and discrimination, including a bill that creates a state-backed task force for the research and recommendation of slavery reparations.
Assembly Bill 3121 establishes a 9-member task force, assigned with recommending possible compensation for descendants of slaves in the state of California and others who have been affected by history of slavery and discrimination.
This bill is the first of its kind in the nation. Reparations bills in other states and at the national level have faced much pushback in the past.
“After watching last night’s debate, the signing can’t come too soon,” stated Newsom.
“California has historically led the country on civil rights,” said Assemblymember Shirley Weber, author of the bill, “yet we have not come to terms with our state’s ugly past….The Governor’s signature on AB 3121 and AB 3070 once again demonstrates that our state is dedicated to leading the nation on confronting and addressing systemic injustice.”
Newsom called the bill “a paradigm that we hope will be resonant all across the United States.”
Portions of the bill’s text read as follows:
“This bill would establish the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, with a Special Consideration for African Americans Who are Descendants of Persons Enslaved in the United States, consisting of 9 members…”
The bill summarizes the history of racism and discrimination in America, listing the ways in which African Americans “continue to suffer debilitating economic, educational, and health hardships” such as incarceration, poverty, and high unemployment rates.
The task force will be made up of 5 members appointed by the Governor, 2 appointed by the President pro Tempore of the Senate, and 2 appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly. The bill requires that one be an academic with expertise in civil rights, two must come from organizations that have already been championing the cause of reparations, and no more than four can be Members of the Legislature.
“The bill would require the Task Force to, among other things, identify, compile, and synthesize the relevant corpus of evidentiary documentation of the institution of slavery that existed within the United States and the colonies…, to recommend, among other things, the form of compensation that should be awarded, the instrumentalities through which it should be awarded, and who should be eligible for this compensation…, to submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature.”
The bill does not give any guidance as to the types of reparations nor who may be counted eligible. Discretion for both reparation recommendations and eligibility is given to the task force, who will also be assigned with educating the California public on the history of racism and discrimination in the state and nation.
AB 3121 does not automatically approve reparations. Any recommendations to the legislature would have to be approved and passed via a separate bill.
Weber hopes that the task force will consider recommendations beyond cash payments, including the possibility of down payments on homes and better access to educational opportunities.