Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed

Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed

WRITTEN BY TANU HENRY AND JOE W. BOWERS JR. | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA

California Officials Recognize Black History Month

On Feb. 1, the inaugural day of Black History Month, officials in California posted messages and kicked off the annual observance with political calls to action, tributes and the unveiling of a package of legislation concerning reparations.

On Feb. 2, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a declaration.

“This month, we pay homage to the rich history and contributions of Black Americans who have shaped our state and nation in countless ways through centuries of struggle and triumph,” Newsom began.

This year’s theme, Black Americans and the arts, celebrates the profound and evolving impact of Black artistry on our culture, national identity, and social movements that have spanned the world over,” the Governor continued. “Through literature, music, architecture, dance, film, and every conceivable medium in between, Black artists and intellectuals have used their talents to honor their heritage, educate and inspire, and open minds and hearts.”

“Happy first day of Black History Month,” was the caption on a Facebook photo of Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus standing together on the grounds of the State Capitol.

The day before, CLBC members released a bundle of 14 bills that, together, take a first step in a “multi-year effort” to rectify historical injustices suffered by Black Americans in California who are descendants of slaves.

“As laid out in the report, we need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism,” said Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

On Jan. 31, the caucus held a briefing with the Black press to talk about the legislation.

On various social media platforms, Gov. Newsom issued a statement that was posted across social media platforms.

“During Black History Month, and year-round, we lift up the vast contributions of Black Californians at the heart of our state and nation. As we celebrate this storied history, we also remember the lessons learned from our past and carry them forward as we continue the journey toward a more perfect union,” Newsom said.

Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Inglewood) honored Black History icons in a post on the social media platform X.

“Today marks the start of #BlackHistoryMonth. The faces of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Barack Obama and Shirley Chisholm represent American icons who led the difficult fight for progress, civil rights and equality! Black History is American History,” Bradford posted.

Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta released a video.

“Each Black History month, we celebrate the vibrant culture, rich history and immeasurable contributions of African Americans in our state and across the nation,” said Bonta. “That include the powerful impacts Black leaders -- past and present – have had on arts and culture from Maya Angelou and Ryan Coogler, Nina Simone and Beyoncé, Black artists have forged a long legacy of speaking truth to power.”

The California Black Freedom Fund Announces $3.5 Million in Grants to 75 Black-Led Orgs

On Feb. 1, the California Black Freedom Fund (BFF) announced its seventh round of funding totaling $3.5 million to 73 Black-led “power-building” and “movement-based” organizations based in different parts of the state.

Since its launch in 2021, BFF has distributed more than $37.7 million in funding to organizations committed to addressing problems rooted in systemic and institutional racism. Among the organization’s focus areas are health, maternal health, gentrification and housing, over-incarceration and policing, education, among other issues.

“We are thrilled to support groups throughout the state that are working to build Black power and address the barriers standing in the way of opportunity and freedom for too many Black Californians,” said Marc Philpart, Executive Director of Black Freedom Fund. “These courageous and visionary grassroots advocates and community leaders are transforming our cities, our state -- and our world.”

According to BFF leaders, the organization is expanding the work it does this year to include the launch of a sabbatical program, an annual “State of Black California” report and corresponding conference; and a legal defense fund.

BFF is supported by funding from the State of California and more than 50 private and institutional donors.

Controller Malia Cohen Sets 25% Goal for Small and Minority Businesses Contracting

On Jan. 30, State Controller Malia Cohen announced that she is requiring that 25% of all procurement contracts signed by her department are with small and minority-owned businesses.

Cohen stated in a letter that her action is necessary to meet the objectives of Assembly Bill (AB) 2019. The law, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2023, requires state agencies to establish goals for including small businesses and microbusinesses among their contracted suppliers.

“January 1 is now behind us and there still appears to be some uncertainty as to which agencies and or procurements are covered by AB 2019,” Cohen stated. “One of my statutory duties is to recommend to the legislature ways to improve the public revenues. I plan to ask the legislature to remove any ambiguities in the law and to make it applicable to all agencies,” Cohen added.

Under the AB 2019, agencies are required to develop an “economic equity first” action plan and policy for the agency to provide, among other things, direction, recommendations, and strategies to ensure that small businesses, as specified, are effectively involved and benefiting from the agency’s procurement process.

According to the Controller, “small businesses not only contribute significantly to the tax base of the State of California” but also account for approximately seven million employees, or 48.8 %, of all employment in the state.

“This is a win-win for all involved. Making an equitable distribution of dollars to small and minority-owned businesses and allowing this sector to grow will expand state revenues without increasing taxes,” stated Cohen.

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Irma Anderson, Richmond’s First Black Mayor, Passes at 93

The city of Richmond flew its flag at half-mast on Jan. 31 to honor Irma Anderson, the city’s first Black female mayor, who died on Jan. 28, at her home.

Anderson, who served as Mayor of Richmond from 2001 to 2006, was 93.

Before she was elected Mayor, Anderson served on the Richmond City Council from 1990 to 2022. Her late husband, the Rev. Booker T. Anderson Jr., a civil rights movement activist, also served as Richmond Mayor from 1973 to 1974.

“She was a strong leader for quality housing and development. She worked to help bring Target and the shopping center to downtown Richmond,” said former Richmond Councilmember Nat Bates to the Richmond Standard.

Prior to joining the Richmond City Council, Anderson was the city’s first Black Public Health Nursing Director. For 20 years before that, she worked at Contra Costa Health.

Bates said that Anderson’s leadership made a difference for African Americans, and she championed issues that improved the lives of all the city’s residents.

Anderson was born and raised near Boston and moved to California in the 1950s, first to Sacramento before then to Richmond.

She earned two nursing degrees at Cornell University in New York and a Master of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley.

Bates is survived by her elder son, Ahmad Anderson who describes his mother as a “servant leader.” Her other son, Wilbert, died in 1995.

“My mother was a pillar for voices that were unrepresented and a lighthouse for folks in troubled waters -- giving them hope that, at the end of the night, there was light,” said Ahmad Anderson.

A memorial service for Anderson will be held Feb. 16 at Easter Hill United Methodist Church.

Poll: 44% of Black Californians Give State’s Health Care System Low Marks

According to results of a survey released by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) on Jan. 31, over 40% of Black Californians are dissatisfied with the state’s health care system.

On racial equity, a statement CHCF released last week read, “44% of Black Californians and 33% of Latino/x Californians say the state has made “only a little progress” or “no progress at all” in recent years.”

The report, titled the 2024 CHCF California Health Policy Survey, is released annually. It provides a “snapshot of Californians’ views on health issues.” The research for it was conducted in September and October last year.

“Access to mental health care and the rising cost of care have emerged in this year’s poll as two of the health issues Californians are most concerned about,” says Kristof Stremikis, director of Market Analysis and Insight at CHCF.

“Californians have strong views on the need to improve treatment options for people experiencing serious mental illness — and they are increasingly frustrated with their own personal access to mental health providers,” Stremikis continued.

Among all races and ethnic groups, the poll found that 53% of Californians postponed seeking medical care because of high costs.

It also revealed that 25% of the people polled say they or someone close to them needs treatment for serious mental illness. For substance abuse or addiction, that number is 21%.

The survey also found that 14% of Black Californians say they or someone they know has experienced homelessness.

Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), chair of the Senate Committee on Health said policymakers should be concerned.

“The CHCF poll also highlights a range of other issues that we will all need to focus on in this year’s health policy debates -- from promoting racial equity in the health care system to building a health workforce that looks more like California.”

Rep. Barbara Lee Says She Would Bring Missing Voice to U.S. Senate

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) says if she wins the U.S. senatorial race this year to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who passed away in September last year, she would bring the voice, insights and perspective of a Black woman to the U.S. Senate.

During a virtual roundtable with Black journalists in California on Jan. 30, Lee said, as Senator, she would be “one out of 100”, bringing her lived experiences as a Black woman and a progressive to the body.

She would also be able to include activists and advocates for housing and other issues in the process of drafting legislation.

“They will be able to get to Washington, D.C. and raise their voices. It is important to let people know that to make this democracy work, they have to be involved,” said Lee.

“The more people that have perspectives that are not represented in the Senate will be there with me in the Senate,” added Lee.

To win, March 5 primary voters would have to elect Lee over her three closest competitors: California reps Katie Porter (D-CA-47) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-30) – and well as Republican Steve Garvey, a former first baseman for the LA Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.

The three other African Americans in the U.S. Senate are men: Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia).

Lee said, as Senator, she would also have the ability to invite witnesses to testify during senatorial hearings.

“It is selecting people who have perspectives that have not been heard for years -- or never – in the Senate,” said Lee. “I would ask them and find a way to get them to Washington, D.C., to share their experiences about why the legislation would help to make their lives better.”

Atty Gen. Rob Bonta, Lawmakers, Announce Legislation to Protect Youth Online

At a press conference in Oakland on Jan. 29, Attorney General Rob Bonta joined Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) to announce two pieces of legislation designed to protect children online.

The bills are Senate Bill (SB) 976, the Protecting Youth from Social Media Addiction Act and Assembly Bill (AB) 1949, the California Children’s Data Privacy Act.

Skinner authored SB 976, which addresses online addiction affecting teenage users, while Wicks’s bill, AB 1949, takes on big tech by proposing data privacy and children rights protections.

“Social media companies unfortunately show us time and time again that they are all too willing to ignore the detriment to our children, the pain to our children, the mental health and physical challenges they face, in order to pursue profits,” Bonta said.

SB 976 would allow parents to control the nature and frequency of the content their under-18-year-old children see on social media. Notifications from social media platforms would also be paused from midnight to 6 am and controls would allow parents to set time limits on their children’s usage based on their discretion.

Skinner stated that the longer that kids are on their phones during the day, the higher the risk for depression, anxiety and other related issues.

Bonta and 33 other attorney generals had previously filed a lawsuit against Meta, owner of the popular social media applications Instagram and Facebook. The filing claims that the company purposefully uses algorithmized content that harms younger audiences.

“Social media companies have the ability to protect our kids, they could act, but they do not,” Skinner said.

The Child Data Privacy Act would strengthen existing protections for data privacy under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The lawmakers argue that the law does not have effective protection for those under 18 years old.

“In a digital age where the vulnerabilities of young users are continually exploited, we cannot afford to let our laws lag behind, our children deserve complete assurance that their online experience will be safeguarded from invasive practices,” Wicks said.

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