November 18, 2005

Commentary:

Legislators and Advocates Join to Demand Race-conscious Policies

By Megan Izen
for RaceWire/ColorLines

California legislators and organizers convened for the release of the 2005 Legislative Report Card on Race and to discuss a policy agenda for the next legislative year at the Racial Equity Policy Summit in Oakland, California. The report was authored by the Applied Research Center and released with the California NAACP, Californians for Justice, California Church Impact and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

“This report shows that the legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger have lacked the political will and a cohesive plan to address the needs of California’s growing majority-people of color.” Said Tammy Johnson, Public Policy Director at the Applied Research Center and one of the report’s authors.

California legislators and the governor once again earned a dismal record on promoting racially equitable policies throughout the state with a C letter-grade for the second year in a row. Only 40 legislators made the ‘honor roll’ for 100 percent support for racial equity as opposed to the 45 from last year. While the governor improved his grade from a failing F to a D, Schwarzenegger vetoed eight of the eighteen bills highlighted in the report.

Katherine McLane, a spokesperson for the Governor said, “Anyone who looks objectively at the Governor’s record can see that his leadership has benefited all Californians,” and also added that “this Governor has repeatedly called for improvements in education in a system that fails far too many of our kids.”

“Policymakers and Governor Schwarze-negger must make a commitment to racial equity. As evident in their abysmal report card grades, lip-service is not enough-actions speak louder than words,” said Menachem Kracjer, lead author of the report.

Many of the same bills that were vetoed last year, succumbed to a similar fate this year. A bill sponsored by Assemblymember Wilma Chan (D-16) that would have provided full or partial health coverage to the 1.1 million uninsured children throughout the state, 79 percent of whom were children of color, was vetoed by the Governor. Other racial equity bills to reach the Governor’s desk, only to be vetoed, included fair minimum wage increase, multiple assessments for high school graduation, and employer health coverage disclosure.

“Ignoring the needs of California’s growing majority is irresponsible for the state and the nation,” said Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally (D-52). “We do not have the spirit that existed in the 60s. As a result of a reversal on racial justice, California is becoming more conservative and health and education are suffering.”

Following the release of the report, advocates from 40 of the state’s leading civil rights, policy, and economic justice organizations attended the Racial Equity Policy Summit. The Summit provided an opportunity for legislators and advocates to form a plan for the coming year to address issues of educational equity, economic justice, health equity, civil rights, and criminal justice for people of color and to ”discuss innovative policy solutions that will close the gap on racial disparity in California,” said Johnson.

As a result of the summit, participants developed strategies to support racial equity legislation focusing on the areas of higher education, health, and economic justice in the next session.

Megan Izen is a writing fellow with ColorLines magazine.

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