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Inflation Worries Grow as California Legislature Approves State Budget

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed. “We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

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If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.
If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles and Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Diane Lanette Barkum is an in-home care provider and mom of three. She commutes about 40 minutes every workday between the Riverside County cities of Lake Elsinore, where she lives, and Moreno Valley, where she works.

Over the last few months, Barkum says she has been stressed and scraping by, struggling to balance sharp increases in the cost of gas and food with making enough money to pay for other expenses.

“What worries me most about rising prices is that they’ll continue to rise, making it more difficult for low-income working parents to be able to support their families,” she said.

Terence Henry, who lives in Patterson in the Central Valley, used to drive 77 miles to the Bay Area to make deliveries as an independent contractor. He says the high cost of gas forced him to give up the job late last year and opt for only making local runs.

“It used to cost me about $50 each way to fill up the tank to get to Oakland, San Francisco and other cities,” he said. “It just was not worth it anymore. I was losing money.”

Barkum says she hopes there is relief around the corner for people like her who are working hard, raising children and still unable to make ends meet.

Barkum and Henry are not alone. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 27% of Californians say jobs, the economy and inflation are their top concern over housing costs and availability (12%) and homelessness (11%).

Across the United States, the inflation rate is 8.6% — up from 4.7% last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the American Automobile Association reports that the average price per gallon of regular gas in California has risen above $6. Several economists agree that the effects of inflation hit poor and working-class families the hardest.

In Southern California, the inflation rate in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the Inland Empire has risen to 9.4%, according to the UCLA Anderson School of Management. That number is among the highest of increases in the country.

Last week, the California Legislature approved a record $300 billion-plus budget for the next fiscal year, the largest annual spending plan in the state’s history. The package includes a surplus of close to $100 billion dollars, half of which must be used to fund schools by law.

Included in the budget are plans to spend the other half. So far, legislators have allotted $8 billion in rebates to taxpayers. Another $1.3 billion has been designated for grants to small business and non-profit organizations. Another $600 million has been specified for tax credits to the lowest-income Californians.

While lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – and the governor’s office agree that addressing spiraling inflation is urgent, they have not reached agreement on how to provide relief to struggling families.

Anthony York, Newsom’s senior advisor for communications, said in a statement that the governor still wants “more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.”

At the federal level, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell approved a three-quarter (0.75) percentage point rate hike — the highest single percentage rate increase since 2008.

“African American-owned businesses and families are experiencing the damaging effects of inflation including the current interest rate increase instituted by the Federal Reserve Board.

“It is important for financial institutions to work with Black-owned businesses and their families to help navigate the rising cost of capital needed to operate and sustain all businesses,” said Timothy Alan Simon, board chair of the California African American Chamber of Commerce.

By statute, Newsom has until June 30 to veto the legislators’ budget bill or sign it into law.

If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed.

“We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

On June 15, Republican leaders held a rally at the State Capitol blasting their Democratic colleagues for their inaction on addressing the high cost of gas.

“Legislative Republicans are gathered here to remind Californians that it has been 100 days since the governor and the Democrats here in Sacramento promised California consumers relief on gas prices. One hundred days is far too long,” said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). After 100 days, we are still waiting with no relief in sight. We need action now. We’ve been calling since January to suspend the gas tax.”

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said the state’s wealth needs to work for hardworking Californians. She pointed to a provision in the budget that provides $200 rebates to working families earning up to $250,000 a year and $125,000 for single filers.

“We are focused on providing struggling families the relief they need to weather rising costs of fuel and groceries, investing ongoing funding in core programs and services, funding one-time infrastructure projects that will keep California moving for years to come,” she said.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) echoed Atkin’s optimism.

“We share a firm belief that our state is strongest when it cares for the weakest among us,” said Rendon. “Our budget proposal continues to lay the groundwork with infrastructure and other investments for future prosperity.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Gov. Gavin Newsom Appoints Joe Stephenshaw as State’s Director of Finance

“I’m truly honored to be chosen by Governor Newsom for this historic appointment,” Joe Stephenshaw told California Black Media. Stephenshaw’s appointment makes him the highest-ranking Black DOF official in the last 30 years. Stan Stancell served as Gov. Pete Wilson’s chief deputy director of Finance in the early 1990s.

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Joe Stephenshaw.
Joe Stephenshaw.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

Gov.Gavin Newsom has appointed Joe Stephenshaw as director of the California Department of Finance (DOF), filling the position held by Keely Martin Bosler since 2018.

Stephenshaw, 47, will be Newsom’s chief fiscal policy advisor. Since March 2022, he served as senior counselor on Infrastructure and Fiscal Affairs in the Office of the Governor.

“Joe’s deep knowledge and experience of the state’s finances and the role that budgets play in moving our priorities forward – expanding opportunity, protecting public safety, and fighting climate change – make him uniquely qualified to be California’s next Director of Finance,” Newsom said in a written statement. “I thank him for stepping up to lead our accomplished team at the Department of Finance as we continue to invest in California values and build stability for years to come.”

The DOF Director position requires Senate confirmation and is paid an annual compensation is $227,178. Stephenshaw is a Democrat.

“I’m truly honored to be chosen by Governor Newsom for this historic appointment,” Stephenshaw told California Black Media.

Stephenshaw’s appointment makes him the highest-ranking Black DOF official in the last 30 years. Stan Stancell served as Gov. Pete Wilson’s chief deputy director of Finance in the early 1990s.

Stephenshaw was staff director for the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee from 2017 to 2022. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from California State University, Sacramento.

He held multiple other positions in the California Legislature from 2008 to 2017, including serving as a Policy Consultant in the Office of the Senate President pro Tempore, a Special Advisor to the Speaker of the Assembly, and as a Budget Consultant for both the Assembly Budget Committee and the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.

From 2005 to 2008, Stephenshaw was a budget analyst for DOF.

“Congratulations to Joe Stephenshaw for being appointed Director at the California Department of Finance! I have worked with Joe in several roles in the Assembly and Senate, and I cannot think of a kinder person or more qualified individual for this role,” California Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins stated on July 1 on her Twitter account.

At DOF, Stephenshaw’s responsibilities include establishing appropriate fiscal policies to carry out the state’s programs as well as preparing, explaining, and administering the state’s annual financial plan (budget), which Newsom is required under the State Constitution to present by January 10 of each year.

The DOF director provides fiscal stewardship and oversight in matters before the State Lands Commission, State Teachers’ Retirement Board, and the Franchise Tax Board, among many others.

Stephenshaw will sit on numerous boards, commissions, bond committees, and finance authorities that cover a broad range of policy areas.

DOF impacts the fiscal activities of other state departments because of the general authority granted to it in Government Code Section 13070. This section provides the Department of Finance with authority over all financial and business policies of the state.

Keely Martin Bosler was appointed as director of the California Department of Finance by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in August 2018 and reappointed by Newsom in December 2018. She announced in March that she would be leaving at the end of the budget season in June.

“Throughout unprecedented challenges and opportunities, Keely has expertly steered the state’s finances with a commitment to expanding opportunity, improving the lives of Californians, and maintaining a solid fiscal foundation,” Newsom stated. “Keely led our work to provide historic relief to get Californians back on their feet and lay the groundwork for our recovery. I’m deeply grateful to Keely for lending her exceptional leadership, talents, unique perspective, and profound dedication to our work to build a better future for all Californians.”

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Activism

Supporters of “Involuntary Servitude” Bill Calif. Senate Rejected Vow to Bring It Back

Three states have voted to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude — Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska — and in all three cases, the initiative was bipartisan and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of legislators, according to Max Parthas, the co-director of the Abolish Slavery National Network (ASNN).

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Sidney Kamlager. Photo from CalMatters.
Sidney Kamlager. Photo from CalMatters.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

Activists supporting legislation that would have ended involuntary servitude in California prisons and eliminate the word “slavery” from California’s Constitution say they may have lost a battle, but they will not back down until their goals are achieved.

Late last month, the State Senate failed to pass Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3, the California Abolition Act. If the Legislature had approved the measure, it would have been placed on the November General Election ballot for voter approval.

For now, California will remain one of nine states in the country that permit involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

ACA 3 needed two-thirds of the Senate vote by June 30,2022. Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who authored ACA 3 in 2021 while serving in the Assembly, stated that the removal of the word slavery from the California constitution would have been a “substantive step toward safeguarding” the future from “the worst practice of our past.”

“Yesterday, ACA 3 failed to be heard. It did not have the 27 (votes) needed to pass off the floor,” Kamlager said in a July 1 statement. “States across the country are embarking on this journey to remove hateful and historically painful language and practices from their constitution. Until yesterday, so was California.”

The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865, prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude with one exception: if involuntary servitude was imposed as punishment for a crime.

Article I, section 6, of the California Constitution, describes the exact prohibitions on slavery and involuntary servitude and the same exception for involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.

Three states have voted to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude — Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska — and in all three cases, the initiative was bipartisan and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of legislators, according to Max Parthas, the co-director of the Abolish Slavery National Network (ASNN).

Kamlager said involuntary servitude “is a euphemism for forced labor” and the language should be removed entirely from the state’s constitution. On June 23, the state Senate rejected the amendment to ban the language with a 21-6 vote. Without the input of 13 Senators that did not cast a vote, ACA 3 was seven ballots shy of passage.

“The CA State Senate just reaffirmed its commitment to keeping slavery and involuntary servitude in the state’s constitution,” Kamlager tweeted after the measure failed to pass.

The Legislature is now on summer recess until the first week of August.

Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), the lone Democrat that voted against the amendment on June 23, inferred that ACA 3 raises the question of “whether or not California should require felons in state or local jails prisons to work.” He brought forth the notion based on information he received from the state’s Department of Finance (DOF).

The DOF estimated that the amendment would burden California taxpayers with $1.5 billion annually in wages to prisoners, DOF analyst Aaron Edwards told the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 16.

Samuel Nathaniel Brown, a member of the Anti-Violence Safety and Accountability Project (ASAP), an organization that advocates for prisoners’ rights, said the Senate “messed up” when it failed to remove the language from California’s Constitution.

Brown helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence.

“The people in California want to end slavery now. Two Senators took it upon themselves to deny the people an opportunity to vote on ACA3 and many people are disappointed and upset,” Brown said. “We will now return more educated, agitated, concentrated, and dedicated. We will eradicate the overt vestiges of white supremacy that taint our constitution, weaken our system of rehabilitation, and undermine public safety.”

ACA 3 is connected to the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans’ Interim Report that was submitted to the California Legislature on June 1.

The report examines the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today. It also provides a remedy to those harms, including its support for ACA 3.

“This effort was uniquely personal to me,” Kamlager stated. “I will continue to fight to speak the truth about our history so that we can learn from it and be better. That is democracy.”

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Activism

Juneteenth ’22: California Legislature Recognizes Reparations Task Force

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

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While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media

Several members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans received a standing ovation from constituents of the State Legislature last week for their work over the last 12 months.

During the opening of legislative sessions at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 16, members of the Senate and Assembly participated in the gesture that coincided with the kickoff of the state’s official Juneteenth 2022 commemorations.

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

Bradford, who was appointed to the task force by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, made his remarks on the Senate floor after fellow task force panelist Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) delivered similar comments in the Assembly chambers.

Seven of the nine task force members and staff from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) were recognized at the event.

Task force members attending the ceremony were Chairperson Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; Vice Chairman Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s; Dr. Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States and the only non-Black member of the panel, was also in attendance.

Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon met briefly with the panel.

Task force members Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego Councilmember and Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, could not make the trip due to prior commitments.

Several members of the CLBC attended the function, which coincided with the passage of resolution in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday in the Assembly.

Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Akila Weber (D-La Mesa), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and CLBC vice-chair Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) showed up to support the task force members’ efforts.

The Task Force first convened on June 1, 2021, to conduct an examination of the lasting consequences of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants.

Under Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who is currently Secretary of State of California, the nine-member panel is charged with making recommendations for how the state can compensate Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved African Americans.

On June 1, the task force released its first interim report, a 483-page document compiled by the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

“The information in the interim report reveals uncovered facts about incidents that disproportionately and negatively affected Black Californians in California for 170-plus years and the country for the last 400 years,” Grills said.

“Until we have a reckoning with the truth, we cannot understand who we are as a nation. When we then begin to have that kind of reckoning, I think the specific manifestation of the harm will be easier to deal with and we will actually have an opportunity for transformative change,” Grills continued.

Over the next 12 months, Moore told California Black Media (CBM) that the task force will focus on bringing increased awareness for the interim report, community engagement, and formulating a framework of how California should compensate around 2 to 2.6 million Black Californians.

“It’s important that the California Legislature understand how important this effort is,” Moore told CBM. “This past year we’ve been working incredibly hard. The next (12 months) I categorized it as the development stage where the nine-member task force has substantive and intentional conversations about what reparations should look like.”

Video link of Sen. Steven Bradford and Dr. Cheryl Grills at the state capitol in Sacramento:  .California Task Force For Reparations at State Capitol 6.16.2022

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