Senate Bill 17 (SB 17)

Establishes the Racial Equity Commission to address structural and systemic racism in California government policies and programs.
  • Introduced
  • CA Senate Committee
  • Senate Floor Vote
  • CA Assembly Committee
  • Assembly Floor Vote
  • Bill Passed
  • Bill Signed

Background: California’s Racist History

The United States was built on an economic, social, and cultural foundation that included structural and systemic racism in its laws, policies, and programs. The trauma of our history — indigenous peoples wiped out for capitalist gain, colonization, slavery, white supremacy, internment camps, and discriminatory laws — has been shouldered by generations of people of color. There is ample research to prove that many people of color experience chronic stress from the effects of individual and collective racism, leading to heart disease, high blood pressure, immunodeficiency, and accelerated aging. Healing won’t happen unless we acknowledge racism for what it is — a public health crisis. We need to take immediate action to begin building a more equitable future for all Californians.

SB 17’s Proposed Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic shed a bright light on decades of structural racism and inequity in our system — especially when it comes to public health.

SB 17 establishes the Racial Equity Commission, an entity to evaluate and recommend strategies for advancing racial equity across state agencies and departments in order to address systemic and institutional racism that has resulted in poorer health outcomes and disparities in Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

This bill also requires the Commission to develop a Racial Equity Framework for the state, offer technical assistance to departments and local governments, engage in community outreach via quarterly public meetings, as well as to publish annual reports on racial disparities in the state and recommendations to reduce such disparities.

We must urgently and strategically address structural racism. Equity can no longer be an afterthought to the State’s programmatic and policy work. California has an opportunity to address the poor decisions of the past by creating systems in place now to ensure its future is anti-racist.

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State government has a responsibility to address the systemic impacts of institutional racism on the people who call California home. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people of color at alarmingly high rates and brought to light decades of structural racism embedded in various policies and programs within the systems of government. SB 17 proposes an important and meaningful solution to address these inequities and will put California farther down the path towards an equitable California for all.

Arnold Sowell Jr., Executive Director of NextGen California

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Our Focus on Healthcare

Fighting for every person who calls California home to have access to quality, equitable, and affordable healthcare. Ensuring that our healthcare system cares for the whole person – which means their physical and mental well-being.

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Elena Santamaria

Partnerships Manager and Senior Policy Advisor

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