Health, Education, Reparations and Budget Deficit Among Top Black Caucus Priorities for 2024

Health, Education, Reparations and Budget Deficit Among Top Black Caucus Priorities for 2024

PHOTO: Asm. Lori Wilson, (D-Suisun) chair, CLBC
WRITTEN BY
 ANTONIO RAY HARVEY | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA 

Closing out their 2023 activities and previewing what they intend to focus on this year, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) met with Black news media outlets from different parts of the state. During the meeting, held late last month, the lawmakers shared some of their top priorities for the 2024 legislative session, which began Jan. 3.

Issues members stated are their primary concerns for the next legislative session fall into several categories, including health, education, public safety, social services, homelessness, affordable housing, and economics. CLBC is planning to bring immediate attention on creating legislation around the 100-plus recommendations the California Reparations Task Force panel presented to the Legislature in June of last year.

Assemblymember Lori A. Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the CLBC, said, because so many of the caucus members have been appointed committee chairs by Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), she expects they will leverage their positions to meet the group’s goals over the course of the next year.

“It is a pleasure to be in this space where we have a record number of members of the Black Caucus being chairs of key leadership committees as well in the area of budget,” said Wilson.

“Traditionally, what happens is when our members are serving as chairs, they also serve budget subcommittees. All members are essentially sitting on budget subcommittees for the upcoming new year,” she continued.

Seven of the 12 members of the CLBC joined Wilson in attending the virtual news briefing facilitated by California Black Media (CBM). They included Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Assemblymembers Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley); Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood); Mike Gipson (D-Carson); Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D – Los Angeles) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento).

The other four members were unable to attend the briefing due to holiday season obligations, Wilson said.

During the 2024 legislative session, Jackson, who will lead Budget Subcommittee 2 on Human Services, said he expects Black Californians will see that the CLBC is “protecting” key issues that concern Black Californians.

“I think it’s going to be an opportunity that other Black caucuses have never had before,” said Jackson. “So, I am looking forward to working with the speaker and Chair Wilson to get these things done.”

Speaker Rivas created the new Budget Subcommittee on Human Services to focus on state funding for programs such as CalWORKs, CalFresh and In-home Supportive Services. Budget Subcommittee No. 1 previously oversaw human services funding, in combination with health.

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The new subcommittee Jackson is leading will engage in increased activities on social programs, in addition to interacting with residents and advocates on issues such as disability rights, low-income jobs, childcare, and aging, Rivas stated in a Dec. 5, 2023, letter.

In addition to Jackson’s new role, Rivas appointed other members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) in to leadership roles in November for the 2023-2024 legislative session.

Wilson is chair of the Transportation Committee; McCarty is chair of the Public Safety Committee; Weber is chair of Budget Subcommittee 1 on Health; and Gipson is chair of the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, and Tourism Committee; Bonta is chair of the Health Committee; and Issac Bryan (D-Ladera Heights), chair of the Natural Resources Committee.

McKinnor remains as the chair of the Public Employment and Retirement Committee from the previous Legislative session.

Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) are both termed out this year. Jones-Sawyer is running for a seat on the L.A. City Council and Holden is running to serve on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

In the Senate, Bradford chairs the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. He is also serving his last term in the Legislature.

Wilson said all the members of the Black Caucus are “excited” and “look forward to stepping” into their roles. Jackson says he is excited to be working on issues affecting aging adults in California.

According to the Stanford Center on Longevity, the number of old people in California, those over 65, will double over the next twenty years from 4.3 million in 2010 to 8.4 million in 2030. This will take place as the huge Baby Boomer cohort — the population born between 1946 and 1964 — passes age 65.

“These resources are vital lifelines for many families. By separating out human services and public health committee work, the Legislature can do a better job of focusing and also give the committee more time to offer feedback,” Speaker Rivas stated, referring to the subcommittee Jackson chairs.

“Assemblymember Jackson has dedicated his career to social work, and I believe he is the best person to lead this new subcommittee,” wrote Rivas.

A recurring concern for members as they discussed the issues important to them is the state’s $68 billion budget deficit that the nonpartisan Legislative Accounting Office (LAO) projected last month.

“I am so grateful that our Speaker has placed me as chair (Subcommittee 1 on Health),” Weber said. “That is going to be so important not only to tackle our budget crisis right now but also making sure that as stated earlier by Assemblyman Jackson, be creative in ways in looking to see where we are putting our money that's actually working.”

Maternity ward closures, educating public about reparations, retail theft, public safety, Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, improving the shortage of public employees, and divestment in oil are some of the issues CLBC members hope to address during the next 12 months.

Other pressing issues for members are early education, afterschool programs, childcare for African American parents, criminal justice reform, and finding solutions to end mass incarceration in California’s jails and prisons.

“As a group, this is not the last time (CLBC will meet with the Black Press). We know that the work you do is important, people laud us always for the work that we do, but you really are on the front lines of our communities,” Wilson told the Black news publishers and reporters.

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