March 4, 2005

Commentary

Racial Equity Report Card Flunks Schwarzenegger

By Libero Della Piana

California is one of a growing number of U.S. states that have a majority people of color population. According to the California Department of Finance some 61% of the state will be people of color within six years. Today one-in-four Californians are foreign-born; by 2050 the ratio becomes three-in-four.

But California’s legislation priorities do not reflect the interests of its majority population according to a new report from the Applied Research Center (ARC). The report, titled California’s New Majority: 2004 Legislative Report Card on Race, rates the voting record of the State Senate, Assembly and Governor on ten “racial equity” bills introduced last session.

Using letter-grades, the report gives a “C” to the Legislature as a whole, and gives an “F” to Governor Schwarzenegger, who vetoed seven out of ten of the bills. Of the 120 total state legislators 45 received a perfect record for supporting all ten bills. “The Governor flunked on fairness,” said Tammy Johnson, Director of ARC’s Race & Public Policy program. “He is making a grave miscalculation by not supporting policies that improve the lives of the majority of Californians. Now he has an opportunity to change that.” Several of the vetoed bills were reintroduced this week.

Solomon Rivera, Director of Californians for Justice, a statewide membership organization, concurred with the report’s findings. “Most legislators support racial equity legislation like the educational opportunities bill of Senator Vasconcellos (D-San Jose),” he said. “But the Governor’s record is abysmal.” The Governor’s Office did not return calls when called for comment on the report and his veto record.

The report’s authors selected the ten bills because they believe the bills represent the greatest positive impact for communities of color. The bills included a bill to protect Native American sacred sites, one to increase the state’s minimum wage, and another to establish statewide hate crimes standards. Two racial equity bills received significant support from both parties: the Native American Sacred Sites Preservation and the Food Stamps Restoration bills.

“Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation preventing hospitals from charging higher rates to uninsured patients,” said Menachem Krajcer, the report’s author. “At Catholic HealthCare West hospitals, for example, the uninsured account for less than three percent of all patients, but 77 percent of the total profit.” Senator Ortiz (D-Sacramento) recently reintroduced the bill.

The report recommends that lawmakers prioritize policies that increase equity and fairness, invest in opportunities, and strengthen protections against racial violence, profiling and discrimination. “The Governor and the Legislature must improve their record by taking immediate action to provide equal opportunity for all,” said Johnson. “Instead of leveling the playing field, the Governor has kicked sand in our faces.”

The report is available at the ARC website, www.arc.org.

Libero Della Piana is the Editor of RaceWire. His writes frequently on issues of race and social change.

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