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Strong Support, Harsh Criticisms Linger as Gov. Newsom’s Budget Begins Final Negotiations

Newsom’s budget includes increased investments to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in education (at all levels), housing, the private sector, clean energy, agriculture, reproductive health, public safety, and more. As California makes investments and builds programs, the governor said, its spending must reflect its values.

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California state capitol.
California state capitol. File photo.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

On May 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press conference in Sacramento to present his $300.6 billion revised budget for fiscal year 2022-23. He has dubbed the spending plan the California Blueprint. It is the largest budget proposal in the 172-year history of the state.

During the briefing, Newsom also announced that the state is expected to have a whopping budget surplus that will increase to $97.5 billion by the summer of 2023.

“Simply without precedent: No other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this,” said Newsom.

“Backed by a robust surplus and grounded in our unshakable values, we’re paving the California way forward to prosperity and progress for all,” Newsom continued, summarizing his spending plan.

“With historic investments, we’re doubling down on our formula for success and making sure no one is left behind – supporting working families and businesses, tackling climate change, expanding health care access, making our communities safer, and more,” he said.

Newsom’s budget includes increased investments to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in education (at all levels), housing, the private sector, clean energy, agriculture, reproductive health, public safety, and more.

As California makes investments and builds programs, the governor said, its spending must reflect its values.

“California values make us competitive globally,” said Newsom. “There is a reason California’s economy outperforms every other economy in the Western Hemisphere – 7.8% GDP growth just in the last year.”

State Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus and chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, praised the governor’s spending plan.

“I commend the governor for conveying the message through programs, healthcare, and pay equity that California will continue to thrive,” Holden said. “The proposal sets strong precedent for those still struggling through the disparate impact of the pandemic and ensures that California continues to keep the environment top of mind.”

Reacting to the governor’s budget announcement, Republican leadership in the California Assembly criticized theNewsom’s proposal, calling it “ineffective.”

“The Governor may not want to acknowledge it, but California is in crisis,” read the statement authored by Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Assemblymember Vince Fong (R- Bakersfield), Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.

“Everyday Californians are being crushed by an affordability crisis worsened by 40-year high inflation,” Gallagher and Fong’s statement continued. “While the governor makes flashy political headlines, he continues to fail to make investments that will help Californians endure these tough financial times.”

On the other hand, California’s second African American Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, said Newsom’s plan to invest $128.3 billion in education, “lifts up the most critical needs” of students and schools across the state.

“As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, California public schools will see a much-needed infusion of investments at a time when students and schools, especially those that have been traditionally underserved, require more support than ever before,” Thurmond said.

Throughout his budget presentation, the governor acknowledged the challenges Californians are facing because of rapid inflation.

“The most important thing on people’s minds, understandably, is ‘How do I lower costs?’ High inflation. Record inflation,” said Newsom. “What are we going to do to ease that burden?”

“That’s why we are proposing $18.1 billion to put back in the pockets of tens of millions of Californians,” Newsom continued.

The governor’s inflation relief plan includes $11.5 billion in tax refunds; $2.7 billion in emergency rental assistance; $750 million for free public transit; $933 million in stipends for hospital and nursing home staff; $1.4 billion to help low-income families pay utility bills; $304 million in middle class health care subsidies; $439 million to offset a proposed diesel tax pause; $157 million to cover fee waivers for childcare, among other investments.

Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland), the only Native American member of the California Legislature, says he looks forward to working with the governor to hammer out the details of the budget plan.

“Confronting the deadly fentanyl crisis, retail theft, supporting mental health services and fighting to reduce the numbers of murdered and missing Indigenous people have also been the focus of my legislation since assuming office,” Ramos said.

Three days after the governor unveiled his budget proposal, California’s non-partisan, independent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) warned that the state could face an economic downturn soon.

“Predicting precisely when the next recession will occur is not possible. However, certain economic indicators historically have offered warning signs that a recession is on the horizon. Many of these indicators currently suggest a heightened risk of a recession within two years,” the LAO report stated.

Republican leaders criticized what they called the Governor’s ineffective proposals on the rising price of gas, housing affordability and the critical water shortage the state is facing. “Ignoring the people’s financial burdens, the governor refuses to provide immediate gas tax relief,” said Gallagher and Wong in their joint statement. “He did not propose any permanent tax relief to deal with a worsening affordability crisis exacerbated by his policies. Given the bone-dry conditions caused by the third year of drought, he stubbornly dismisses the cry to build more water storage and accelerate wildfire prevention projects.”

Under California state law, the governor and Legislature must complete the budget negotiation process and approve the spending proposal for the next fiscal year by June 15. The governor has until June 30 to sign it into law.

“This year’s budget is unprecedented in some of the challenges that it presents, but the Assembly has been preparing for months to meet those challenges,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “It is also reassuring to have the Senate and Pro Tem Toni Atkins as teammates for this budget process. We know how to work together to present Governor Gavin Newsom with a budget he can be proud to sign by the constitutional deadline.”

Bay Area

Board Bars Evictions Related to COVID-19

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

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The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.
The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.

Protections intended for those experiencing hardship because of pandemic

Courtesy of Marin County

Determined to prevent housing displacement for residents financially hampered by the ongoing pandemic, the Marin County Board of Supervisors took another action June 21 to prohibit residential renter evictions in unincorporated Marin effective July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022. The State of California’s eviction protections are scheduled to expire June 30.

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

The County is continuing to assist tenants who have applied for rental assistance and working with community partners to assure an equitable distribution of federal funds earmarked for eviction prevention. All renters have been protected by state or local laws, regardless of a person’s citizenship status, during the public health emergency. The County continues to process rental assistance applications as quickly as possible with added staff over the past year to accommodate assistance applications.

Rental assistance priority has been given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550. Nationally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are often at the highest risk of housing displacement. The County recognizes that those most in need of eviction protection experience barriers to access such a program. While more than two-thirds of non-Hispanic white residents are homeowners in Marin, roughly three-quarters of both Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx communities in Marin are renters.

Between state and federal funds, the County’s pandemic rental assistance program was awarded $36,414,871 of which $23,970,885 has been distributed to 1,260 local households in need. There is a remaining balance of $8,579,705, which will serve the remaining applicants and waiting list and is anticipated to be spent by September 30, 2022.

Clearing accumulated debt is designed to provide a lifeline to the hardest-hit families and provide income stability for landlords. Several local agencies, such as Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, and North Marin Community Services, are assisting applicants with the process.

Property owners may call the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6450 for assistance on rights and responsibilities. Renters are encouraged to contact Legal Aid of Marin at (415) 492-0230, extension 102, for inquiries on eviction protections.

Anyone needing help with the online application may call (415) 473-2223 or email staff to learn more about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. More information about the County’s eviction moratorium is on the County’s COVID-19 Renter Protections webpage.

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Activism

California Senate Gets Second Chance to Pass Prison Slavery Bill This Week

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).
Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

On June 23, the California Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to remove language in the state Constitution that allows involuntary servitude as punishment to a crime with a 21-6 vote.

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.

The state of California is one of nine states in the country that permits involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

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

The number of votes cast in favor of Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3, the California Abolition Act, fell short of the two-thirds vote requirement needed to move the bill to the ballot for Californians to decide its fate in the November General Election.

The Senate is expected to hold another floor vote on the legislation this week.

Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who authored ACA 3 in 2021 while serving in the Assembly, said she focused the language in the bill on the slavery ban and vowed to bring it back for a vote when Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, asked her about it June 23.

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

Jamilia Land, a member of the Anti-Violence Safety, and Accountability Project (ASAP), an organization that advocates for prisoners’ rights, said she remains committed to making sure slavery is struck out of the California constitution.

“All we needed was 26 votes,” Land said. “But we have made amendments to ACA 3 on (June 24). Now it could either go back to the Senate on (June 27) or Thursday, June 30.”

Five Republicans and one Democrat, Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), voted against the amendment.

He stated that the issue is “certainly a question worthy of debate” and “can be addressed without a constitutional amendment.”

“Slavery was an evil that will forever be a stain on the history of our great country. We eliminated it through the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th Amendment,” Glazer said in a June 23 statement. “Involuntary servitude — though lesser known — also had a shameful past. ACA 3 is not even about involuntary servitude — at least of the kind that was practiced 150 years ago. The question this measure raises is whether or not California should require felons in state or local jails prisons to work.”

Glazer said that the Legislative Counsel’s office gave him a “simple amendment” that involuntary servitude would “not include any rehabilitative activity required of an incarcerated person,” including education, vocational training, or behavioral or substance abuse counseling.

The Counsel also suggested that the amendment does not include any work tasks required of an incarcerated person that “generally benefit the residents of the facility in which the person is incarcerated, such as cooking, cleaning, grounds keeping, and laundry.”

“Let’s adopt that amendment and then get back to work on the difficult challenge of making sure our prisons are run humanely, efficiently and in a way that leads to the rehabilitation of as many felons as possible,” Glazer added.

Kamlager says “involuntary servitude is a euphemism for forced labor” and the language should be stricken from the constitution.

The state’s Department of Finance (DOF) estimated that the amendment would burden California taxpayers with $1.5 billion annually in wages to prisoners, DOF analyst Aaron Edwards told Senate the Appropriations Committee on June 16.

“These are facts that we think would ultimately determine the outcome of future litigation and court decisions,” Edwards said. “The largest potential impact is to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which currently employs around 65,000 incarcerated persons to support central prison operations such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry services.”

Right before the Juneteenth holiday weekend, the appropriations committee sent ACA 3 to the Senate floor with a 5-0 majority vote after Kamlager refuted Edwards’ financial data.

This country has been having “economic discussions for hundreds of years around slavery, involuntary servitude, and indentured servants” and enslavement still exists in the prison system, Kamlager said. She also added that a conflict was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

“This bill does not talk about economics. It’s a constitutional amendment,” Kamlager said. “The (DOF) is not talking about any of this in this grotesque analysis about why it makes more sense for the state of California to advocate for and allow involuntary servitude in prisons. I think (this conversation) is what led to the Civil War.”

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).

ACA 3 is already attached to a report that addresses the harms of slavery. The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans issued its interim report to the California Legislature on June 1.

The report included a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms, including its support for ACA 3. It examines the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today.

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Bay Area

Oakland Mayor Greets Old Friend at Lakefest

Both Oakland natives, Jones and Schaaf became acquainted when the mayor was an Oakland City Councilmember representing District 4. Back then Jones taught her his breathing/aerobics exercises at his fitness studio in the Laurel District, which the mayor has utilized ever since, and which has been an invaluable tool in contributing to her overall health and wellness.

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Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

At Oakland’s Third Annual LakeFest celebration on June 25, 2022, Oakland Post Ambassador Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones ran into longtime friend and supporter Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

As Schaaf exited the stage after making remarks at an event touting Oakland culture through music, dance, fashion, food and more, she greeted Jones by demonstrating his highly acclaimed “breathing aerobics” technique.

Both Oakland natives, Jones and Schaaf became acquainted when the mayor was an Oakland City Councilmember representing District 4. Back then Jones taught her his breathing/aerobics exercises at his fitness studio in the Laurel District, which the mayor has utilized ever since, and which has been an invaluable tool in contributing to her overall health and wellness.

With over 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field, Jones is a member of the African American Sports & Entertainment Group and creator of Breathing Aerobics, a health and wellness company that specializes in teaching specific breathing exercises to improve overall health. He has taught Breathing Aerobics on major television and radio stations, which has earned him the moniker, “Guru of Breathing.”

For more info on Breathing Aerobics go to www.breathingaerobics.com

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