California State Senator Steven Bradford, right, and Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, left, at a reparations meeting in San Diego on Jan. 28, 2023. Photo by Ariana Drehsler for CalMatters

California lawmakers voted to offer an official apology for the state’s role in supporting slavery and moved several other reparations bills but let others die.

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from south Los Angeles, authored AB 3089, the apology bill, after serving on a nine-member state task force that studied harms committed against Black residents.

“We were people’s properties in this state. And it was defended by the State Supreme Court and other courts,” Jones-Sawyer told the Assembly ahead of the vote.

Four Democrats and 12 Republicans did not vote on the apology bill. The Assembly approved the bill 62–0, including six Republicans who voted for it. Now it heads to the state Senate and, if approved, to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

State lawmakers embraced and applauded as soon as the bill passed. Jones-Sawyer said Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have all enacted some form of apology for their role in slavery.

His bill is one of more than a dozen in a package of reparations bills supported by the California Legislative Black Caucus. In February the state Assembly approved a resolution acknowledging “harms and atrocities” state leaders inflicted on Black residents over the years. Assemblymember Akilah Weber, a Democrat from San Diego, authored that bill.

Other key bills in the Black Caucus’ reparations package cleared important hurdles.

A proposal by Democrat Sen. Steven Bradford of Inglewood to compensate Black residents for land unjustly taken by eminent domain moved forward.

The California Senate also advanced proposed legislation that would create an agency to help Black families research their family lineage and confirm eligibility for any future restitution measures, and a bill that would establish a reparations fund. The bills will now head to the state Assembly for another vote.

State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Los Angeles-area Democrat, said the state “bears great responsibility” to atone for injustices against Black Californians.

“If you can inherit generational wealth, you can inherit generational debt,” Bradford said. “Reparations is a debt that’s owed to descendants of slavery.”

A bill that would require state licensing boards to prioritize Black applicants passed the Legislature’s appropriations committees. The Pacific Legal Foundation testified in opposition, saying it is unconstitutional.

“The state’s licensing laws are already too burdensome. Making race a factor is an insult to the state’s workers who just want the means to earn an honest living,” Andrew Quinio, a foundation attorney, told lawmakers April 23.

Two other proposals aimed at implementing the California Reparations Task Force recommendations quietly died in the suspense file last week: SB 1007 would have provided financial aid for buying or maintaining a home and SB 1013 would have granted property tax relief to descendants of slaves. Bradford wrote both bills, but the Black Caucus did not designate them as priority bills this year.


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