California Black Media Political Playback: News You Might Have Missed
Joe Bowers, Tanu Henry, Edward Henderson and Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
Your roundup of stories you might have missed last week.
Rest in Peace: California Reparations Task Force Economist William Spriggs Passes
Dr. William “Bill” Spriggs, an educator and one of the economists serving on the California Reparations Task Force, passed away on June 6.
The chief economist for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and a former chairperson of the Economics Department at Howard University, Spriggs, 68, held several economic policy positions in the federal government, spanning two presidential administrations.
Among those mourning his passing is U.S. President Joe Biden. “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Bill Spriggs, a man who brought as much lasting brilliance to economics as he brought joy to his friends and colleagues,” Biden shared in a written statement. “Bill was a towering figure in his field, a trailblazer who challenged the field’s basic assumptions about racial discrimination in labor markets, pay equity, and worker empowerment. His work inspired countless economists, some of whom work for our Administration, to join him in the pursuit of economic justice.”
In March, Spriggs was among four economists who developed formulas estimating that the amount California owes Black residents who are descendants of enslaved people in the United States is likely to exceed $800 billion.
“Devastated to hear the news of Dr. #BillSpriggs’ passing! He left a tremendous mark on society, contributing to the first-in-the-nation California Reparation Task Force, including the compensation section of our final report (releasing on June 29). Rest well!,” California Reparations Task Force Chairperson Kamilah V. Moore tweeted on June 7.
California State Library Expands to Provide Free Books to Children Across California
Last week, the California State Library announced the expansion of its resources and services partnership with Imagination Library. This program, started by the Dolly Parton Foundation, provides free books monthly to all children in the state under the age of five. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office collaborated on this effort. To date, Imagination Library has distributed 200 million books to children in five different countries.
“Reading is a team sport,” said California State Librarian Greg Lucas. “The more that you engage a community and get people to understand the value of creating stronger readers, the more successful the program will be and the stronger and more resilient the community is going to be.”
First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom attended the launch ceremony and stated that “reading to kids early and often is good for their literacy and a great way to begin to cultivate a lifelong love and appreciation for reading.
The program’s expansion was driven by bipartisan legislation signed last year by Gov. Newsom. The bill — authored by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) — provides a dollar-for-dollar match from the State Library to help local organizations that partner with the Imagination Library to sign up more children to receive books.
Newly Released Census Data: Most Californians Are Renters and They Are Not Doing Well
Last week, a new report based on census data was released showing the impact of California’s high cost of living on people who earn the lowest incomes in the state.
According to census data, 45.5% of homes in California are occupied by renters, second only to New York at 49.7%. Nationwide, the rate of renter-occupied housing units is 36.9%, the highest it’s been since 1970.
United Ways of California uses data such as the costs of food, health care, childcare, transportation and other basic needs to compile its “Real Cost Measures of Living in California” report.
According to the study, African American and Latino household seem to be struggling the most.
51% of Latino households fall below the Real Cost Measure compared to 45% of African American households, 30% of Asian American households, and 23% of White households.
Factors contributing to California’s high renting percentage are housing prices and having a larger immigrant community that the rest of the United States.
Last week, some California lawmakers held a rally to raise awareness about a proposed amendment, authored by Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) and Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), that would make adequate housing a constitutional right.
Governor Gavin Newsom Announces the Launch of Gun Safety Website
On June 5, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the launch of GunSaftey.ca.gov, a website that provides information on how Californians can obtain and use Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO) to protect their loved ones.
A GVRO, is a temporary action taken by a local court when someone is at risk or causing harm to themselves or others. The individual in crisis cannot purchase or possess firearms or ammunition while the order is in place.
“California is taking aggressive and relentless action to end the unbearable tragedy of gun violence,” said Newsom at the launch event. “While other states remain complacent in the face of recurring, gut-wrenching tragedy, California is making it easier than ever to access commonsense tools like Gun Violence Restraining Orders to protect our communities.”
Republican Lawmakers Hold Anti-Fentanyl Rally
On June 6, Republican lawmakers held an anti-fentanyl rally in Sacramento to announce the introduction of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 12. The amendment, also known as “Alexandra’s Law,” would require the state to issue a warning to convicted fentanyl dealers advising them that continuing to sell fentanyl is extremely dangerous. The warning would empower prosecutors to file homicide charges if the dealer continues to sell fentanyl and causes a death.
“Alexandra’s Law is a simple and reasonable approach to holding drug dealers accountable when they knowingly murder Californians with fentanyl,” said Matt Capelouto, whose daughter Alexandra died in 2019 from fentanyl poisoning and inspired the law. “It will give law enforcement the ability to stop someone who continues to sell a drug that results in instant death.”
The California Department of Public Health reports that about 6,000 Californians died in 2021 from fentanyl-related overdose. The Republican Caucus noted that this was an average of 110 people a week.
“I have been clear that we must take a multi-pronged approach to fully tackle the fentanyl crisis,” said Assemblymember Joe Patterson (R-Rocklin). “We cannot rely on education and treatment alone. It is critical that we give our law enforcement the tools necessary to hold dealers and sellers accountable.”