Legislative Black Caucus lists its priorities for 2024 session

By Antonio Ray Harvey 

Contributing Writer

SACRAMENTO — Closing out their 2023 activities and previewing what they intend to focus on this year, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus met with Black news media outlets from different parts of the state last month.

During the meeting, 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. The Legislative Black Caucus 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.

Assemblywoman Lori A. Wilson, D-Suisun City, caucus chair, said because so many of the caucus members have been appointed committee chairs by Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Salinas, 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,” Wilson said.

“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 added.

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

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 caucus 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,” Jackson said. “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.

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, child care, and aging, Rivas said in a Dec. 5 letter.

In addition to Jackson’s new role, Rivas appointed other members of the California Legislative Black Caucus to leadership roles for the 2023-24 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-Los Angeles; is chair of the Natural Resources Committee.

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

Assemblymen 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 for a seat 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 20 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,” Speaker Rivas stated, referring to the subcommittee Jackson chairs. “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. 

“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 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 caucus members hope to address during the next 12 months.

Other pressing issues for members are early education, after-school programs, child care 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 [the Legislative Black Caucus 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.

Antonio Ray Harvey is a reporter for California Black Media.