California Reparations Bill Would Require State Licensing Boards To Favor Black Applicants

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
February 23, 2024

A proposed California reparations bill would require occupational licensing boards in the state to prioritize black applicants, especially descendants of slaves.

A.B. 2862, introduced last week by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D.), would update California's Business and Professions Code, seemingly requiring every certification board in the state—including medical boards—to favor black applicants. The bill's preamble mentions licensure for real estate and "healing arts," which includes health care professions such as physicians, nurses, and therapists.

"Existing law prescribes requirements for licensure and regulation of various businesses and professions, including healing arts and real estate businesses and professions," reads the text of the bill. "This bill would require boards to prioritize African American applicants seeking licenses under these provisions, especially applicants who are descended from a person enslaved in the United States."

Gipson's bill is part of a package of 14 pieces of legislation that the state's Legislative Black Caucus announced in late January. Other bills in the package include one that would fund "community-driven solutions" to violence in black communities and another that would issue a formal apology for atrocities inflicted on black slaves and their descendants.

The caucus's package represents California's first legislative action on reparations since the state's Reparations Task Force over the summer issued a 1,100-page report that recommended what Gipson's bill would accomplish. The caucus in a release described the package as the "first step in what will be a multi-year effort to implement the legislative recommendations in the report." Neither the task force's report nor the caucus's legislative package called for direct cash payments to descendants of slaves.

Gipson's office declined a request for comment.

California has long pursued legislation and programs related to racial reparations. The Reparations Task Force's summer report—which it issued after two years of deliberation—also included recommendations that the state replace school police officers with social workers and decriminalize public urination.

Democratic state senator Steven Bradford introduced a bill last week to divert money toward reparations. Bradford's bill would require 6 percent of money directed to one of the state's reserve funds to go to another fund that would support policies that "indemnify" descendants of slaves or free black people who lived in the United States before 1900. The bill came days after a watchdog warned that the state's budget deficit is projected to reach $73 billion.