California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who wrote the legislation that established the state’s groundbreaking reparations task force as a state assemblywoman, made that plea Friday to the panel at the beginning of a two-day meeting in San Diego.
Weber’s Assembly Bill 3121 was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 30, 2020. It established the first state-level task force to study and develop reparations for African-Americans because of slavery.
Under the law, the task force — which released a preliminary report last year — must submit its final report and recommendations to the state legislature by July 1.
Weber said Friday at the meeting at San Diego State University that the task force was addressing “some of the most important issues in the state.” She also mentioned the significant role she thinks California plays in the reparations movement.
She introduced the bill in the California legislature in 2020 because “the bill in D.C. once again had failed,” Weber said. “We never seem to get across the line and make progress.” So, she said, “California could do that. California is always the one that does the innovative things.”
Weber said California had the legislature to pass the bill at the time, and that she knew that the state has the resources to accomplish what needs to be done. She pointed to the state’s standing as one of the largest economies in the world, and its educational institutions that she called “second to none.” (Weber was an educator before she became an elected official.)
“We have the brainpower and knowledge to do this if we choose to,” she said.
The first publicly funded reparations program in the nation was passed in Evanston, Ill., and has begun to distribute money for housing-related purposes. Other local governments around the nation are considering or exploring their own reparations programs. The federal legislation on reparations, H.R. 40, has been introduced several times since 1989 but has never gotten anywhere.