Thursday, September 28, 2023

How California can give Latinos a bigger voice in government

One of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s primary responsibilities is appointing people to fill vacancies on state boards and commissions. However, his office lacks a system
public to see whether those appointed reflect the communities they are expected to serve.

Unfortunately, these positions often do not reflect California’s inherent diversity, particularly when it comes to the underrepresentation of Latinos. Although Latinos make up 39% of the population, they continue to be marginalized in these appointments, and the lack of transparency in the governor’s appointments obscures the true extent of this underrepresentation.

We have a promising solution in front of us. Senate Bill 702, authored by State Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), would require the governor’s office
Prepare and publish an annual report on the demographic makeup of all individuals appointed to state boards and commissions that year. This report would provide the transparency needed to advocate for the diversification of boards and commissions that wield significant influence across the state.

From monitoring public educators’ access to retirement through the California State Teachers Retirement System to remediating contaminated sites
Through the Environmental Safety Board and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board review authority, these agencies provide the link between the state’s administrative powers and the issues affecting our communities.

Last year, the Latino Policy and Politics Institute at UCLA, where I work, published an analysis of Latino representation in gubernatorial appointments on 45 critical committees within UCLA
state authorities and ministries. The report found that Latinos have the largest representation gap among any racial group, holding only 18.4% of leadership positions — more than double what would be needed to accurately reflect the number of Latinos in the state. Latinas remain the most underrepresented among women.

In practice, this means that these commissions do not represent the communities they are intended to serve. The majority of California’s K-12 education system is made up of Latino students, but the community is underrepresented on education boards. Likewise, Latino communities bear the brunt of many of the state’s environmental burdens, but
There are hardly any votes in environmental commissions. Additionally, while Latinos are a driving force for employment growth and job creation in the state, they are underrepresented on employee representative councils.

SB 702 is at a critical juncture as another legislative session nears its end. Last year, Newsom vetoed the bill, citing budget constraints. The Governor has a commendable record of historic appointments, including the appointment of the first Black Secretary of State, the first Attorney General of Filipino descent, and the first Latino U.S. Senator to represent California.

But the public deserves to know what progress is being made on all appointments, even the less notable ones. Failure to pass the bill limits our ability to understand which groups are not involved in decision-making.

In a state whose economic growth and success is tied to the Latino community, we must make rigorous efforts to monitor, understand and correct the pattern that pushes Latinos to the margins of key decision-making bodies.

Whether it’s corporate technical boards, nonprofit boards, Hollywood or the medical profession, the lack of Latino representation persists. Newsom can help write a new chapter for state boards and commissions.

Additionally, this legislation can provide data and resources for organizations like ours that are committed to the short- and long-term empowerment of Latinos and other underrepresented groups across the state.

Effective governance requires the presence of women, diverse populations and the inclusion of real experiences as forms of knowledge. Illinois has already implemented a similar law
will provide a tool for community leaders advocating for greater representation in their state. Now California is prepared for this moment.

An annual report that tracks the composition of state commissions and boards will help us direct these resources where they are needed most, so that those who do the work that has the most impact on our communities are truly a reflection of who they are who they are supposed to serve. .

César Montoya is a political analyst at the Latino Policy & Politics Institute at UCLA.

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