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Reparations Proposals for Black Californians Advance to State Assembly

SOPHIE AUSTIN, Associated Press

16 minutes ago

FILE - State Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, addresses a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 15, 2021 in Los Angeles.  The California Senate introduced a set of ambitious reparations proposals on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, including legislation that would create a new agency to help Black families research their family lineage.  (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

FILE – State Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, addresses a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 15, 2021 in Los Angeles. The California Senate introduced a set of ambitious reparations proposals on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, including legislation that would create a new agency to help Black families research their family lineage. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Senate on Tuesday advanced a series of ambitious reparations proposals, including legislation that would create an agency to help Black families research their family lineage and confirm their eligibility for any future restitution approved by the state.

Lawmakers also passed bills to create a fund for reparations programs and compensate Black families for property the government unfairly seized from them through eminent domain. The proposals now head to the state Assembly.


State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, said California “has a great responsibility” to atone for injustices against black Californians.

“If you can inherit generational wealth, you can inherit generational debt,” Bradford said. “Reparations are a debt owed to the descendants of slavery.”

The proposals, which passed largely along partisan lines, are part of a series of bills inspired by recommendations from a pioneering task force in the country that spent two years studying how the state could atone for its legacy of racism and discrimination. against Africans. American people. Lawmakers did not introduce a proposal this year to provide widespread payments to descendants of enslaved Blacks, which has frustrated many reparations advocates.

A bill to study reparations for African Americans, first introduced in the 1980s, has stalled in the U.S. Congress. Illinois and New York state recently passed laws to study reparations, but no other state has advanced further than California in considering reparations proposals for black Americans.

California state Sen. Roger Niello, a Republican who represents the Sacramento suburbs, said he supports “the principle” of the eminent domain bill, but does not believe taxpayers across the state should have to pay the families for land confiscated by local governments. .

“That seems a little unfair to me in and of itself,” Niello said.

The votes come in the final week for lawmakers to pass bills back home, and days after a key committee blocked legislation that would have provided property taxes and housing assistance to descendants of enslaved people. The state Assembly introduced a bill last week that would make California formally apologize for its legacy of discrimination against black Californians. In 2019, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a formal apology for the state’s history of violence and mistreatment of Native Americans.

Some reparations opponents say lawmakers are promising too much about what they can deliver for Black Californians as the state faces a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.

“It seems to me that they’re putting the cart before the horse, first of all,” said Republican Assemblyman Bill Essayli, who represents part of Riverside County in Southern California. “They are creating these agencies and frameworks to grant reparations without approving any reparations.”

Running the agency could cost the state up to $1 million annually, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee estimate. The committee did not release cost estimates for implementing the expropriation and reparations fund bills. But the group says it could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate claims from families who say their land was taken based on racial discrimination.

Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the reparations advocacy group Coalition for a Just and Equal California, said before the votes that they would be “a first step” toward passing more far-reaching reparations laws in California.

“This is a historic day,” Lodgson said.

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Austin is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Austin on social platform X: @sophieadanna