On Sept. 29, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill (AB) 2296 authored by Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer.
The bill proposed extending the term for the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans by an additional year until July 1, 2024.
“I am returning Assembly Bill 2296 without my signature,” Newsom said in a written statement. “At the request of the author of the original legislation that created this task force, I am vetoing this bill.”
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber authored AB 3121 the legislation establishing the task force in 2020 – while serving in the Assembly. The task force was formed to study slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans with a “special consideration” for descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.
Jones-Sawyer is a member of the Task Force.
As written, AB 2296 would “remove the specified term of office for appointees and, instead, subject the appointees to removal at the pleasure of their appointing authority.”
That action would authorize the Task Force, by majority vote, to elect officers and create advisory bodies and subcommittees to accomplish its duties.
Currently, Los Angeles attorney Kamilah Moore is the task force chair and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown of San Francisco serves as vice chair.
The Task Force consists of nine members. Five of them are appointed by the Governor, two members are appointed by the President pro Tempore of the Senate, and another two are appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly.
The Assembly passed AB 2296 with a 59-13 majority vote. In the Senate, it passed 32-6 at the end of August. It was sent to the Governor on Sept. 9 for his signature.
Jones-Sawyer avoided making any public comment about AB 2296 since introducing the bill in the Assembly on Feb. 16, 2022.
At a two-day meeting in Los Angeles on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24 at the California Science Center and the Wallis Annenberg Building in Exposition Park, Jones-Sawyer made a public statement about the bill.
“The Task Force report will be completed on time as richly envisioned by Dr. Shirley Weber. It will not be delayed and will be done (July 1, 2023) whether the governor signs my bill or not,” Sawyer said. However, he avoided commenting on the removal of members mentioned in the bill.
Many speakers during public comment at the first day of the meeting voiced concerns about extending the Reparations Task Force sunset date for an additional year.
Jones-Sawyer said his intention to extend the task force was to allow members to lobby the Assembly and Senate legislators who may not be in favor of the recommendations or “dollar amount.”
“That is the purpose why I wanted this group to stay together, not to hold up part of the report, but to keep this group together so they can lobby our colleagues and other individuals who may not be in line or in lockstep with what we want to do. And there are several of them who are not in line with what we want to do,” Sawyer said.
The members of the Coalition of a Just and Equity California (CJEC) and other advocate groups for reparations conducted a month-long continuous social media campaign on all platforms and made pleas to the public to call the governor's office urging Newsom to veto AB 2296.
“The Governor made the right decision. As Reparations advocates, our job is to make sure the Reparations development process is open, transparent, led by the descendant community, and free from political influence,” said Chris Lodgson, a member of CJEC. “We are thankful to Governor Newsom and Secretary Weber for agreeing with us, as well as everyone who reached out to the Governor or encouraged people to reach out to the Governor to help achieve this victory. AB 2296 was a bad bill and deserved to be vetoed.”
The San Francisco Black and Jewish Unity Coalition offered its support against the bill when it was asked by Rev. Brown and Weber to “reach out” to all the participants in the “Teach-In on Reparations: for African Americans in California and San Francisco.”
Brown and Weber were guest speakers at the teach-in held in San Francisco on Sept. 18 at the Congregation Sherith Israel. The Unity Coalition is a grassroots organization, made up of people of faith and/or social activists, committed to the causes of racial, social, and economic justice and to dismantling systemic racism at the local, regional and national levels.
“Please immediately contact Governor Gavin Newsom’s office and ask him to veto the Jones-Sawyer legislation — AB 2296 — that would extend the term of the (California) State Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans and open up the opportunity to remove and replace members,” the coalition said in a statement to the teach-in participants. “The work of the Task Force is on track and on schedule, and we need to stay the course. The Task Force has not asked for an extension.”
On June 1, the Task Force submitted its interim report to the California Legislature. The interim report covers the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today. A final report will be issued before July 1, 2023.