CA Senate passes 3 bills that would create reparations agency, funding

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) — The California State Senate passed a trio of reparations bills Tuesday written with the intent to begin correcting the harms of slavery and decades of anti-Black racism perpetuated by the state and local governments. The bills now head to the Assembly for votes.

The three bills passed Tuesday are part of a dozen-bill reparations package introduced by the California Legislative Black Caucus earlier this year. The bills build on the more than 100 proposals for reparations released by California’s Reparations Task Force in the summer of 2023 after two years of extensive and groundbreaking work.

VIDEO: California’s Case for Reparations

The three bills voted on Tuesday were authored by Senator Steven Bradford of Southern California. Senator Bradford also served on the state’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force.

SB 1403 passed in a vote of 30-7. It would create the California Freedmen Affairs Agency which would oversee and administer any reparations measures passed by the State Senate and Assembly and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The agency would be tasked with confirming that the potential recipient of reparations is a descendant of an African American enslaved in the United States or a free Black person living in the U.S. prior to the end of the 19th century. This mirrors the eligibility criteria suggested by the state’s reparations task force. The agency would create a genealogy office to support potential reparations claims and establish a process to verify genealogical research.

SB 1331 passed in a vote of 30-7. It would establish the Fund for Reparations and Reparative Justice in the State Treasury in order to fund policies approved by the legislature and governor that address harms faced by Black Californians caused by the state. A specific funding mechanism has been removed from the bill as the state continues to navigate a significant budget deficit.

RELATED: State Assembly approves bill to formally apologize to Black Californians for discriminatory policies

A previous iteration of the bill would have placed money into the reparations fund by moving 6% of the money from the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties each year. The 6% figure was a nod to the percentage of Californian’s population identified as Black.

SB 1050 passed in a vote of 32-4. It would require the California Freedmen Affairs Agency to compensate families who have had their property taken from them in racially-motivated applications of eminent domain.

The state reparations report outlined a number of instances of Black Californians being paid pennies on the dollar for their property that would be developed for public use.

The ABC7 Originals Documentary California’s Case for Reparations shares the story of the Johnson family from Russell City, Cailifornia. The town is now a part of Hayward. Dozens of Black and Latino families were offered substantially less than their property was worth. Those who refused to leave had their homes burned to the ground in fires. The land was later developed to be a private business park.

VIDEO: What reparations could look like for Black Californians as task force prepares for final vote

Here’s what reparations would look like for Black Californians as the task force prepares for the final vote in Oakland Saturday.

The bill that passed today would require families to be paid present-day fair market value for the property, have the property returned, or be provided property of equal value. The payments would be made from the Fund for Reparations and Reparation Justice.

The three bills Tuesday join AB 3089 which passed the state Assembly last week. The bill would issue an apology to Black Californians for the state’s role in instituting slave laws and discriminatory practices since its founding.

The Senate bills passed today now head to the assembly for a vote and, if passed, could be before the governor as early as September.

At least two significant reparations bills have failed in the committee process so far.

SB 1007 which would have provided homeownership assistance and SB 1013 which would have created avenues for property tax relief for descendants of slaves were voted down in committee.

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