Budgetary and Legislative Wins and Hopes in California

As 2019 quickly comes to a close and a new decade emerges, SEARAC reflects on the wins and hopes of the 2018-2019 California budget and legislative cycle. Gov. Newsom and the CA state legislature passed a $218 billion budget in June 20197, expanding capacity for 2020 Census community outreach and education, increasing access to education for low-income students and families, and advancing health and mental health care. On Sunday, October 13,  Gov. Newsom cappedp his first year in office by making decisions on legislation that made it to his desk. 

Census community outreach – 

  • The Census Policy Advocacy Network (CPAN), of which SEARAC is a member, secured an additional $30 million — with $2 million to be used for local educational agency-focused strategies for 2020 Census outreach, and $28 million for community outreach and education by government and community-based organizations.

Education equity –

  • Through the College 4 All coalition, led by Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, we advocated for a renewal of a state-funded college readiness block grant, and were able to secure a $6 million reinvestment for University of California campuses to conduct high school outreach to schools with high populations of underrepresented students.
  • The California Department of Education (CDE) began the implementation process for AB 2016, authored by Asm. Alejo, to create California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. CDE released a draft for public comments in June 2019. SEARAC was able to mobilize our California partners to submit comments to expand the curriculum to be more inclusive of the overall Southeast Asian American experience. The model curriculum met opposition, but we are hopeful that CDE is taking the necessary steps not to rush the process and ensure the curriculum includes discussion on systems of oppression and narratives from the voices of people of color and marginalized communities. We also look forward to coming back in 2020 to push for a bill that would require all California public school districts to implement ethnic studies curricula in their schools.
  • The state legislature also passed AB 1393, authored by Asm. Weber, which would have required CDE to create Laotian histories and cultural studies model curricula inclusive of the various refugee communities from Laos. Unfortunately this bill was vetoed by Gov. Newsom. We are encouraged to see Lao and Iu-Mien American communities across the state mobilizing their communities to advocate in-district and at the Capitol. 

Advancing health access – 

  • With the leadership of the California Pan Ethnic Health Network (CPAN) and other Assembly Bill (AB) 512 sponsors, we advocated for necessary financial investments in our mental health delivery system to increase cultural competence and access. We were able to secure $3 million in the state budget for ongoing technical assistance to counties on reducing mental health disparities and $5 million one-time funding for innovation grants to invest in non-traditional mental health providers to serve the diverse needs of California.
  • On June 30, 2018, funding for community health navigators ended and many SEAA-serving community based organizations have struggled to keep up with high demand of Southeast Asian Americans in need of support to navigate the medical system and institutions. We secured in the state budget $30 million over two years with a federal match to fund community-based outreach to enroll Medi-Cal eligible beneficiaries in health care coverage.
  • The state legislature passed AB 512, authored by Asm. Phil Ting, which would increase state-to-county accountability and expand culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services to vulnerable communities. Although Gov. Newsom vetoed the bill, we are hopeful to come back in the 2020 budget cycle to advocate for appropriate state funding to increase appropriate mental health services for our Southeast Asian American communities and all communities in need of better culturally and linguistically appropriate services.  

Immigrant rights –

  • Gov. Newsom pardoned Thear Sam on October 17, which will delay Sam from being deported. We call on Gov. Newsom to prevent further trauma on our Southeast Asian communities by utilizing his clemency power to pardon more impacted community members and keep them home. 

Racial equity –

  • With the strong leadership of organizations, including #BlackLivesMatter and PolicyLink’s Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, Gov. Newsom signed AB 392, authored by Asm. Weber, into law on August 19. This law redefines the circumstances under which a police officer can use deadly force toward a person. 

Our communities experienced some major victories this legislative cycle. We also experienced some losses, but this is only the beginning. More than ever, Southeast Asian American organizers, advocates, and community members are out in strong numbers in California to fight for equity, access, and human rights. 2020 is a pivotal year for everyone, especially for Southeast Asian Americans, as it marks the 45th year of our community’s arrival as refugees  to the United States. We will keep fighting forward.