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CA Legislative and Budget Victories for Boys and Men of Color

By Sergio Cuellar

As the California state legislature’s 2019 session draws to a close on September 13th, the coming weeks will be critical. Our partners at Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, organizations across California, and young people and families have been mobilizing to champion policy and budget priorities that will improve the lives of young people in the areas of education, economic rights and opportunity, and community safety and justice.

State Legislative Agenda Advances BMOC Priorities Including Police Accountability

On Monday, August 19, Governor Newsom signed AB 392: The California Act to Save Lives.  For decades, families of loved ones killed by the police have fought against police violence and for greater accountability. Dozens of families and advocates, including members of the Alliance of Boys and Men of Color and the California Funders for Boys and Men of Color, joined the Governor to mark this historic moment.  

Introduced by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), AB 392 updates the state’s use of force laws to hold police officers accountable and encourage officers to avoid using deadly force at every possible opportunity. The bill’s common sense approach is modeled after best practices already in place in other parts of the country to reduce police violence. 

Additional bills pending in the legislature will also make a difference in the lives of boys and men of color:

  • SB 419: Introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), SB 419 eliminates “willful defiance” suspensions and expulsions for students in grades 4-8, extending the reach of 2013’s AB 420 which eliminated willful defiance punishments for children in grades K-3. SB 419 includes a sunset in 2024 for grades 6-8. The bill passed the Senate and is awaiting an Assembly floor vote.
  • AB 901: Introduced by Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson), AB 901 eliminates the use of “voluntary probation” in schools to ensure students receive appropriate interventions rather than being criminalized for academic reasons or typical adolescent behavior. The bill passed Assembly and is awaiting Senate Appropriations approval; nearly every county probation officer is opposed.
  • SB 206: Introduced by Senator Skinner, SB 206 promotes economic rights for student athletes to grant athletes the right to earn compensation for the use of their name or image. The bill passed the Senate and is awaiting an Assembly floor vote, where it faces stiff opposition from the NCAA.
  • SB 218: Introduced by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), SB 218 allows city or county agencies to enforce employment discrimination laws, so workers can address discrimination locally. The bill passed the Senate and is awaiting Assembly Appropriations approval.
  • AB 656: Introduced by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), AB 656 creates a new statewide Office of Healthy and Safe Communities that will develop a vision and strategic plan for ending cycles of violence through community-based approaches. The bill passed the Assembly and is awaiting Senate Appropriations approval.

California’s 2019-2020 State Budget Marks Progress on Juvenile Justice Reform

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the state budget into law in late June, enacting his proposal to abolish the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and shift responsibility to a new Department of Youth and Community Restoration, which will be under Health and Human Services. The move reflects recognition that young people require healing and rehabilitation rather than criminalization and incarceration.

The budget also increases investments in community safety, youth programs, and youth diversion:

  • $30 million for the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program, which will invest in community-based approaches to end gun violence.
  • $5 million from the state general fund to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • $8 million to fund programming that will “support community-building strategies and create therapeutic environments” within youth facilities.
  • $5 million for the Youth Reinvestment Grant Program that distributes grants to cities and counties to fund educational, mentoring, and behavioral health services for young people.
  • $10 million for the Tribal Youth Diversion grant program distributed by the Board of State and Community Corrections. The grants will support diversion programs for Tribal youth.

Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color Looks to the Future

On July 1, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Chair of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, hosted a press conference to kick off the first informational hearing of 2019. At the hearing, legislators reviewed the past several years of the state’s investment in boys and men of color to help direct future resources and legislation. Legislators heard from young people and advocates, including CFBMoC members Shane Murphy Goldsmith, president and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation, and Chet P. Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center. 

In the days following the hearing, Assemblymember Garcia conducted a site visit to Fathers and Families of San Joaquin in Stockton. They visited a healing circle at the Stockton Trauma Recovery Center, recognizing the Center’s efforts as a model for healing that can be replicated across California. The Select Committee also conducted a site visit to Mid-City CAN, to learn more about the organization’s police accountability campaign, among other exciting work. Stay tuned as the Committee announces its forthcoming plans.

Contact Sergio Cuellar (scuellar@sierrahealth.org) to learn more about CFBMoC’s partnership with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, and to get involved in advancing policies that expand opportunity for boys and men of color across California.

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