By Tanu Henry and Edward Henderson | California Black Media
(CBM) – Your roundup of stories you might have missed last week.
Assembly Democrats Release Spending Plan Ahead of 2023-24 Budget Vote
On May 24, California Assembly Democrats released a budget proposal which aims to close the state’s projected $31.5-billion-dollar deficit.
In the plan, the lawmakers are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to close five more state prisons by 2027. This is an increase of three more prison closures than the number proposed in the Governor’s budget plan released in January.
In the May budget revisions, Newsom declared that despite the closures, California “remains committed to meeting the needs of staff and the incarcerated populations while right-sizing California’s prison system to reflect the needs of the state as the prison population declines.”
The Legislature is facing a rapidly approaching June 15 deadline to approve the state’s 2023-24 budget, and Gov. Newsom must sign off on it before the new fiscal year starts on July 1.
LA Mayor, City Council Celebrate Africa Day
On May 30, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass joined city council leaders to observe Africa Day. The celebration commemorates the establishment
of the African Union (called the Organization of African Unity at the time).
Founded in 1963, the union was established to promote solidarity among African countries, defending their sovereignty, eliminating colonialism, encouraging international cooperation, and coordinating and harmonizing member states’ policies.
Councilman Curren Price led the event’s main presentation, where the history of the union was shared along with the acknowledgment of LA-based entrepreneurs who promote African culture and influence and make it part of their mission to give back to Africa and the city.
“As we know, Africans have been displaced throughout the globe, and many of us are descendants who may or may not be able to trace our heritage, but that does not hinder us from honoring the continent and the African diaspora,” Price said.
Bass highlighted that at the time the union was formed, only 30 African countries were independent. Today, 54 countries have that distinction.
“There was a large movement in the United States, celebrating the independence of nations, but also some fighting to change U.S. policy,” Bass said. “I think, it’s most famously known as the anti-apartheid movement.”
Bass said the City Council played an important role during that time to divest from doing any business related to South Africa. Councilman Robert Farrell, and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA 43) who was then an Assemblymember in 1976, played key roles in this effort.
“This movement caught fire around the country and around the world,” Bass said. “It actually led to one of the many reasons why the U.S. changed its policy and decided to divest and impose sanctions on South Africa.”
State Lawmakers Call for Transit Bailout
On June 3, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), along with other lawmakers, held a press conference outside of the California Environmental Protection Agency to call for additional state funding to support public transportation.
Gov. Newsom recently presented the legislature with his plan to close California’s $31.5 billion-dollar deficit. In the proposal, Newsom did not include critical funding that public transit in the state requires to avoid a deficit.
“Our transit systems have been telling us for months and months and months that this fiscal cliff is happening, and unfortunately the governor’s budget had zero dollars in it to address these operational shortfalls — zero!” Sen. Wiener told reporters.
“Instead, the governor’s proposal slashes $2 billion in transit infrastructure money, which will kill various projects around the state and will cause us to forfeit billions of federal matching dollars if we’re taking away our own capital investment,” Wiener added.
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) said transportation is facing cuts across the country, but funding for California’s transit infrastructure is not negotiable.
“It’s time for the state of California to intervene and ensure we don’t step off a transportation fiscal cliff from which we cannot recover.”
The lawmakers want the governor to restore a $2 billion cut from transit infrastructure and to add operational funding to avoid services cuts. Without state funding, BART says it will have to run trains only once an hour, cut service on weekends and after 9 p.m. on weeknights, reduce service to San Francisco International and Oakland International airports, close some stations and even shut down some lines.
Large Number of Voters Still Undecided in California Senatorial Race
Last week, calls from state leaders and the public urging California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to resign grew louder. But there is still a large number of voters undecided about who they would like to replace her.
In a recent poll conducted by the UC Berkley Institute of Governmental Studies, 4 out of 10 voters do not know who they will vote for in the 2024 senate race.
The candidates to replace Senator Feinstein include Democrats, Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA-47), Adam B. Schiff (D-CA-30) and Barbara Lee (D-CA_12) and Republican attorney Eric Early.
According to the poll, Early and Porter are in the lead with 18% and 17% of the vote, respectively. Schiff (14%) and Lee (9%) are falling behind with 42% of likely voters still undecided.
The top two finishers in the March 2024 primary will face off in the general election.
Lee, the only announced Black candidate, received a vote of favorability with 26% of likely voters in the poll, 19% unfavorable and 55% saying they had no opinion. Among Black voters, 45% said they had no opinion of Lee.
Lee is known for being the sole vote against giving President George W. Bush broad war powers after 9/11. In the California Legislature, she wrote the California Violence Against Women Act and a bill enhancing penalties for blocking access to abortion clinics.
“We’re not looking back on this campaign,” Lee said. “But I want you to look at what I have done as a progressive Black woman, both in the Legislature and in Congress, to know that I’m going to stand my ground. I have convictions and courage. And it’s an indicator of what I will do in the future.”
Gov. Newsom Grants Pardons to Four Veterans
Last week, Gov. Newsom granted pardons to four people who served in the Armed Services. The California Constitution gives the Governor authority to grant executive clemency, recognizing an individual’s efforts towards self-rehabilitation and accountability.
Jamar Baines served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and was discharged under honorable conditions, with a National Defense Service medal and Humanitarian Service medal.
Andres De Leon is a Vietnam War veteran. In 1967, 19-year-old De Leon was convicted of burglary, then enlisted in the Army shortly after serving his sentence. He was honorably discharged.
Fabian Rebolledo is a U.S. Army veteran who served as a paratrooper and a peacekeeper during combat operations in Kosovo and received an honorable discharge in 2000.
Ernest Sari served in the U.S. Army National Guard and was honorably discharged. In 2001, he was convicted of possession of a controlled substance while armed with a firearm.
Gov. Newsom has granted a total of 144 pardons, 123 commutations, and 36 reprieves.
Senate Advances Bills Protecting Foster and Homeless Youths
Last week, the California State Senate passed two bills introduced by Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) that will protect children facing adversity.
SB 333 will provide stipends of $1,000 a month for five months to unhoused students finishing high school “to help them enroll in college or enter the workforce.”
“I applaud my Senate colleagues for protecting California’s most vulnerable students during a crucial time. High schools offer homeless students a support network that can include free counseling, school supplies, transportation and meals,” Cortese said.
On May 30, the Senate passed SB 9 with a 40-to-0 vote. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
On May 22, the Senate passed SB 333 with a 34-to-4-vote. It is now being reviewed by the Assembly Education and Human Services committees.