California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law on Wednesday (Sept. 30) that will begin a detailed plan to make reparations to Black Americans. The legislation is the first state-wide reparations mandate in the U.S.
“This is not just about California; this is about making an impact and a dent across the rest of the country,” Newsom said after singing the bill.
Under the new law, the government will create a nine-person team that will be tasked with developing a proposal for how reparations can be best provided to Black residents. The task force will also be responsible for deciding what form the reparations will be in and who will be eligible to receive them.
According to ABC7, the law does not limit reparations to slavery, but it does require that special consideration be given to Black people who are descendants of slaves. Though California entered the Union in 1850 as a free state, it did allow white slave owners from other states to bring slaves to California. The state also passed a law allowing police to arrest escaped slaves and return them to white owners.
“California has come to terms with many of these issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who wrote the bill, said.
Reparations could reportedly come in the form of cash payments, forgiven student loans, public work projects or job training initiatives. Gov. Newsom is expected to appoint five members to the task force, with the other four appointed by leaders of the state Senate and Assembly. The law requires that at least two people on the team must come from “major civil society and reparations organizations” and at least one member must be a civil rights expert or scholar.
The task force will issue its reparations proposal to the state Legislature within a year of its first meeting, which must take place by June 1.