Newsom vetoes bill extending reparations committee deadline
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill Thursday night that would have granted more time for a first-in-the-nation African American reparations committee to complete its work after the former assemblymember who authored legislation creating the committee asked the governor to do so.
A brief message explaining the Democratic governor’s decision credits the request by state Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who introduced the original reparations task force bill in 2020.
The bill to extend the task force deadline, authored by Democratic Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, garnered criticism from reparations advocates who said that the legislation would send a demoralizing message to African Americans already skeptical that they will receive reparations.
“This legislation was not asked for by the public or members of the task force, nor were they even made aware,” said Marcus Champion, a board member of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, at a reparations task force public meeting in Los Angeles last week.
The coalition, which sent a letter to Newsom with other organizations asking him to veto the bill, tweeted in celebration of the news Thursday.
Jones-Sawyer, a member of the nine-person task force, pushed the legislation giving the group an extra year. He said the committee’s final report assessing the compensation owed to descendants of enslaved people will be released within its original time frame, by July 1, 2023. But he said the committee needs to remain intact to ensure its recommendations are enacted.
At last week’s public meeting, Jones-Sawyer thanked attendees for voicing their opinions on the bill and other issues related to the committee’s work, but reiterated that the final report will be finished “on time and on budget.”
The legislation would have changed the sunset date from July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2024, extending what was originally a two-year committee to three. The bill also would have allowed the nine task force members, appointed by Newsom and the two legislative leaders, to be removed at any time.
The mission of the committee, which met for the first time in June 2021, is to document California’s role in perpetuating discrimination against African Americans, craft an official government apology and draft a comprehensive reparations plan.
In a statement Friday, Jones-Sawyer said the purpose of the bill was to allow time for lawmakers to ask the task force questions about its work.
“Good policy is not created in a vacuum. Good policy takes time, compromise and mutual respect,” he wrote. “Intimidation and aggression toward opposing views strips our credibility and poisons the well.”
National reparations advocates have praised California for providing leadership in a country where reparations efforts have stalled in Congress.
The task force voted 5-4 in March to limit reparations to the descendants of Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century, overruling Jones-Sawyer and others who wanted to expand compensation to all Black people in the U.S., regardless of ancestry.
A spokeperson for Weber said via email Friday that she was not available for comment.
Associated Press writer Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Sophie 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 Sophie Austin on Twitter.