California reparations: How likely are the proposals to pass?

The California reparations task force has issued its final recommendations and report to the state legislature for consideration. Some of the proposals face an uphill battle.

Some task force members at the meeting on Thursday acknowledged that passing several of the proposals, including the controversial reparations payments, will be a difficult process.


Democratic state Sen. Steven Bradford said at the meeting that the cost of reparations “will be high” but that it is justified due to the alleged harms the state committed against black Californians.

“The cost of reparations will be high, but make no mistake, the harms that are done are just as high. And the harms and the disparities it created continues to this day,” Bradford said.

“Now that the final report is completed, [our] recommendations must be considered by the legislature as I’ve stated. As a member of the California state Senate, it will be up to me and my colleagues to begin the hard work of turning this into policy that we can implement. And making it a reality, not just an aspirational hope, but a reality,” he added.

When discussing how to pay for the reparations, he said the legislature has found ways to fund projects like high-speed rail and that reparations “must” be included in the state’s budget. He also acknowledged that passing reparations will take multiple legislative sessions but said that activists should remain vocal on the matter.

Reparations payments were given a formula by the task force in the final report, but specific amounts were left to be determined by the legislature should they choose to enact it. The calculations are separated into categories for alleged health harms, alleged over-policing, alleged housing discrimination, alleged property takings, and alleged devaluation of businesses.

The reparations payments proposal is the most likely to struggle in the state legislature due to its expected high price tag and the recent $31.5 billion budget deficit that caused several programs to have funding cut in the state’s budget.

Leaders in both chambers of the California legislature stated they would carefully evaluate the proposals but did not make specific policy promises, instead discussing topics in the report.

“I have eagerly awaited the recommendations of the Reparations Task Force. If we are to have a measure of restorative justice for the past wrongs inflicted on African Americans in California, we must consider these recommendations carefully,” Democratic state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon tweeted on Thursday.

“They are the work of an incredibly thoughtful, gifted and compassionate panel. I am grateful for their work and I am hopeful that it will enable us to find a workable and just path forward,” he added.

Democratic state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins issued a lengthy statement on Thursday. She condemned the Supreme Court decision earlier in the day, which ruled affirmative action in college admissions was unconstitutional, before commending the task force’s work.

“Today, the Reparations Task Force handed our state a roadmap that compels us to unflinchingly acknowledge and confront our past, and build a better future. I fully recognize that my experiences as a white woman are different than those of Black Californians, but I share the goals of equality, equity, and justice that this report seeks to advance. We all need to read this report, truly reflect on the pain and inequality it so clearly details, and take action. We can’t lose this moment,” Atkins said.

“In the Legislature, this report will deeply inform our conversations and guide our collaboration as we continue to develop policy and legislation in California on issues such as housing, healthcare, education, environmental justice, the legal system and more. I thank the Reparations Task Force for their diligent and difficult work — including Senator Steven Bradford and Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe — as well as the California Legislative Black Caucus, the hundreds of Californians who participated in this process, and our Secretary of State, Dr. Shirley Weber, who authored the legislation that got us to this point. With deeper understanding and even greater resolve, we will ensure California makes the progress we need to move forward,” she added.


Despite eagerness to read and act on the recommendations by leadership in the legislature, a majority of residents in the Golden State do not view the task force favorably. A PPIC-Ipsos KnowledgePanel poll from May shows that 43% of Californians see the task force favorably, while 54% of those in the state see the task force unfavorably. The unpopularity of the task force may complicate rank-and-file lawmakers’ willingness to act on recommendations made by the group.

With the last day for bills to be introduced passing for the regular legislative session in February, it looks likely that recommendations not included in already in-progress bills will not be acted on by the state legislature until 2024.

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