Civil rights

Black leaders slam Governor Newsom for vetoing “major civil rights” bill


Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

(CBM) – Supporters of a bill that would have increased diversity among public service employees at all levels of California state government are criticizing Governor Newsom for vetoing the legislation.

Assembly member Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) introduced the legislation, which would have required all state boards and commissions to have at least one member from an under-represented community. Called the “upward mobility” bill, supporters say the legislation would also have opened avenues for blacks and other minorities for promotions, higher wages and recruitment for government jobs in the United States. ‘State.

According to Holden, there is documented evidence that some state agencies – the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), for example – have ignored blacks and other minorities for promotions. .

For black Californians, Assembly Bill (AB) 105 was particularly critical and historic, according to its supporters.

“We were asking for more diversity in our state’s human resources department, which is California’s largest employer,” said Betty Williams, a well-known activist in Sacramento.

Williams, who is also a member of the African American Empowerment Community Council (AACEC), a coalition of black leaders from across the state, said she was particularly baffled by Newsom’s decision. Governor Newsom was aware of the importance of AB 105 to AACEC, she explained, and they urged him to sign it.

“Governor Newsom wins 83% of the African-American vote in the recall election, and he vetoed major civil rights legislation in the state right after, is disappointing,” she added. .

Currently in California, nearly 64% of all state government employees – including managerial positions – are held by white people, according to data from CalHR. Whites make up only 34% of the state’s total population of about 40 million people.

Supporters of the bill also explain that for the first time in U.S. history there would have been a law requiring state agencies to break down and record the number of black Americans employed in government who are the direct descendants of enslaved people. .

“I am very disappointed. Look at clause six of the bill. We worked with the author of the bill to include language in AB 105 that would have disaggregated the Black or African American category and created a specific means of to gather information on blacks descended from American slavery and who knew Jim Crow in the Deep South and elsewhere, ”said Chris Lodgson, a Sacramento-based community organizer for the Coalition for a Fair and Equitable California (CJEC ) and the American Redress Coalition of California (ARCC).

Lodgson and the two organizations he represents have been at the forefront of the political effort in California to study the history of slavery and anti-black discrimination and seek redress for black descendants of reduced people. in slavery.

“Right now the category ‘Black or African American’ refers to – and this is by the legal definition the state uses – anyone from black racial groups in Africa. It doesn’t specifically describe me – whose family comes from slavery in the southern United States. This definition makes black descendants of enslaved people invisible in the data. This bill would have changed that.

Like Lodgson and Williams, other black state leaders say they are surprised and disappointed by the governor’s decision.

“Please stop coming to our house to ask for bread pudding, then when you get it you don’t talk to us or talk about our concerns when you don’t need us anymore”, a said Cynthia Adams, a teacher advocate in Oakland. “It must stop. “

Adams said government shouldn’t just include people with the right skills.

“It should level the playing field and reflect, as well as protect, diversity. This is achieved by recruiting and promoting qualified individuals who resemble the racial, ethnic and cultural makeup of the state’s inhabitants. “

Newsom said he had “fired” the AB 105 without his signature because the bill may have had “unintended consequences.”

“While the goals of AB 105 are laudable, elements of the bill conflict with existing constitutional requirements, labor agreements and current data collection efforts,” the governor said in a statement after. having vetoed the bill. “Further, since the AB 105 would cost tens of millions of dollars, these one-time and significant ongoing costs would have to be factored into the state’s annual budget process.”

In response to the governor, supporters said funding for the bill would come from the state’s $ 42 billion budget surplus, so cost is not a factor. Lodgson also pointed out that the Legislative Counsel’s Office reviewed the bill and found no legal or administrative conflicts.

AB 105 defined the term “board member or commissioner of an underrepresented community” as a person who identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native hawaii, alaskan native, gay, lesbian,

bisexual or transgender. Military veterans with disabilities have also been included in the definition.

Lodgson says that although the governor vetoed AB 105, he is still “encouraged” because the State Senate Assembly and the Senate passed the legislation with a “solid” majority of both. third.

There was also broad support among Californians, he said.

“The governor’s veto message encouraged the author of the bill to work with his team to resolve some of the issues during the budget process in January 2022,” Lodgson said. “So he opened the door for the elements of the bill that are of particular concern to us to possibly be added as early as the first months of 2022.”