Members of a state reparations task force hold a public hearing at San Diego State University on Jan. 28, 2023. Photo by Ariana Drehsler, CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – California’s first-in-the-nation task force to study whether and how the state should pay reparations for residents who are descendants of slaves always had its work cut out for it. And with its research set to wrap up in a few months, it’s still not clear if the Legislature will accept its recommendations when it comes time to hand them in, reports Wendy Fry fromCalMatters’ California Divide team.

The idea of reparations itself is controversial and complex — the state-appointed panel has received angry calls and only slightly more emails initially supporting payment than opposing it. But as the July 1 deadline draws nearer, updates from the group have remained steady. 

Earlier this month, for example, the panel outlined two methods for payment, it decided the state should issue a formal apology and it instructed the Department of Justice to use the term “African American” in final documents.

Despite this progress, however, two vital questions remain: How much will reparations cost the state? And will the Legislature support the recommendations of the task force?

Previously, the nine-person body made it clear that it was not yet ready to issue a final dollar figure for reparations. Now, based on the recommendation by economists that the task force approved, the Legislature will be the one responsible for determining the compensation amount.

In 2020, legislators voted 58 to 12 in favor of the law that created the task force. But in a recent, informal CalMatters poll of Assemblymembers, only three out of 80 legislators confirmed their support for the group. The rest did not respond.

Despite this vague outlook, support for the task force’s work, especially after the June 2022 release of its interim report, has grown. Within a few weeks, endorsements from outside organizations throughout California grew from 30 to more than 130 organizations.