Senate Meets on Budget, But California Lawmakers Already Failed the Grade

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“From school funding to strengthening the safety net for those most in need, the Governor and the legislature have repeatedly failed to effectively root out racial disparities,” said Tammy Johnson of Applied Research Center. “The legislature is even debating the elimination of CalWORKS at a time when unemployment in communities of color remains in double digits.”

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The legislature is even debating the elimination of CalWORKS at a time when unemployment in communities of color remains in double digits.

Applied Research Center has published its fifth edition of the “California Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity” today, February 11, as people of color look to legislative solutions to pull their communities out of the recession. Unfortunately, California lawmakers are failing the grade. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger scored an “F” in racial equity, while the State Assembly scored a “D” and the State Senate scored an “F.” Visit http://www.arc.org/reportcards.

Though communities of color represent nearly 60 percent of the population, the state of California’s leadership has not addressed this majority population’s needs. California state lawmakers slashed budgets across social, educational and health services last year, exacerbating long-standing racial disparities. This month, they are again threatening more of the same.

The majority of progressive racial equity bills were authored in the Assembly, with Speaker Karen Bass and members Kevin de Leon, Hector De La Torre, Tom Ammiano and Jose Solorio among the leaders. The Senate scored worse overall though President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg received a “B.” Schwarzenegger scored well on criminal justice bills supporting juveniles. But the governor’s overall score dropped 24 percent since 2007.

“From school funding to strengthening the safety net for those most in need, the Governor and the legislature have repeatedly failed to effectively root out racial disparities,” said Tammy Johnson of Applied Research Center. “The legislature is even debating the elimination of CalWORKS at a time when unemployment in communities of color remains in double digits.”

“These grades resulted from an exhaustive effort of communities state-wide to identify bills that most impacted the quality of life of people of color in 2009,” said Goro Mitchell of Community Development Institute. “It is hard to grasp that in a state with majority people of color the legislature and the governor were so unresponsive to our needs--this racial justice report card is key to promoting accountability.”

Beyond the budget, California lawmakers scored poorly on a range of bills impacting racial equity, including housing and economics, health equity, education equity, criminal justice, civil rights, and green equity. Worse still, some lawmakers authored bills that would have resulted in institutionalizing racial inequities.

“Last year’s budget meant domestic violence shelters closed, children were put on waiting lists for health care and homebound elderly and disabled people were left without adequate care,” said Nancy Berlin of California Partnership. “We need a state budget that puts families first, creates jobs and provides a strong safety net to help Californians through these tough economic times.”

Additional experts who can speak to sections of the “California Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity” include Elizabeth Sholes of California Council of Churches (budget), Sumayyah Waheed of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (juvenile justice) and Evelyn M. Rangel-Medina of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (green equity).

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