Bipartisan effort to ensure greater diversity in state government forges ahead – Orange County Register

Second Amendment

Editor’s note: Sacramento Snapshot is a weekly series during the legislative session detailing what Orange County’s representatives in the Assembly and Senate are working on — from committee work to bill passages and more.

Before she was an assemblymember, Jasmeet Bains served in the state Capitol as an appointed commissioner.

“That’s the power of literally appointing people from rural areas that don’t classically have appointees,” said Bains, D-Delano. “They rise all the way up to the legislature.”

Bains shared her story during a hearing last week on legislation that would require the governor’s office to collect demographic data — including ethnicity, gender and geographic — on appointees to California’s boards and commissions.

The idea, supporters say, is “to ensure California’s leadership reflects its greater population” and highlight “where gaps in representation exist, encourage outreach to communities of interest and address any barriers.”

The bill from Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, unanimously passed out of an Assembly committee last week with bipartisan support — and with multiple Orange County legislators asking to be included as co-authors: Laurie Davies, R-Laguna Niguel; Diane Dixon, R-Newport Beach; and Cottie Petrie-Norries, D-Irvine.

“If we want to increase the quality and diversity in our state government, we must first identify where we can do so,” said Davies. “The goal of our government should be that it accurately reflects the people of California. People need to see themselves represented on every type of board and commission.”

The governor can make thousands of appointments to positions in state government, an analysis for the bill states, from full-time salaried positions to advisory panels who are paid per diems and more.

Latinos have the largest representation gap, according to a 2022 report from the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute, among racial and ethnic groups in the state’s executive appointees.

Latinos made up only 18.4% of executive appointees, the report found, despite accounting for about 39.1% of the population. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic White people accounted for 48.8% of executive appointments while making up 36.5% of California’s population.

However, nearly 71% of Latinos serving executive branch appointments were tapped in the past four years, under the Newsom administration, the report said.

The report also found an underrepresentation of Southern and Central Californians.

“When we see a lack of diversity — whether that’s men or women or in terms of ethnicity or race or even geography — it’s really easy for decisions to be imbalanced,” said Petrie-Norris. “More representation around a leadership table leads to better decision-making.”

The plan in Limón’s bill, she said, is similar to the state’s annual reports regarding judicial appointments that include aggregate demographic data for state judges and justices. The data collected would be “voluntarily self-reported” information on age, disability status, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, party affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation and veteran status, according to the analysis.

“As boards and commissions at the state level are reflective of the entire 58 counties that we have, we’re better to understand the issues, opportunities, limitations and best practices of what we may need,” said Limón.

This is the third time Limón has championed a version of this legislation; the other two versions were vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In 2022, Newsom’s veto message cited the cost of the effort, and in 2021, he noted the state already works to appoint a diverse slate of people to various positions.

Not much has changed with this year’s version, but a previous idea for a task force to be convened to really track and study the data has been nixed, Limón said.

A spokesperson for Newsom said his office does not comment on pending legislation.

“The governor’s office is committed to building an administration that reflects California’s diversity at every level of state government,” said the spokesperson.

Questions about the appointment process and how diversity is factored into it were not answered.

Regardless of the previous vetos, Limón said, “I’m going to keep going until one day I’m successful.”

In other news

• The Assembly Committee on Elections unanimously OK’d legislation to mandate influencers disclose their paid involvement in campaigns last week. The effort from Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, is to ensure greater transparency in California elections, he has said.

• Newsom last week proposed adding a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to “enshrine fundamental, broadly supported gun safety measures into law” while leaving the Second Amendment untouched. Specifically, his proposal would add a minimum age of 21 to purchase firearms, mandate universal background checks and a waiting period for gun purchases and prohibit the civilian purchase of “assault weapons that serve no other purpose than to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time.”

While the proposal appears to be a longshot — to amend the U.S. Constitution, approval from two-thirds of Congress or 33 states that will call for a constitutional convention is needed — it did garner some support from Orange County legislators.

“Gun violence in America is a public health crisis, and this is entirely the result of politicians who are in the pocket of the NRA.  Enough is enough,” said Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine. “We need action, not just more thoughts and prayers. I’m proud to support (Newsom’s) proposal to ensure we can enact commonsense gun regulations, broadly understood to be constitutional before the federal judiciary was stacked with lawless, politically driven judges.”

“In the absence of federal action, the states must lead. If this requires us to reform the U.S. Constitution to protect our citizens from the horrors of gun violence, then that is what we must do,” Min added.

And Petrie-Norris said on social media: “Time and again we have called on Washington to take action as mass shootings continue to devastate our communities. We are frustrated by the federal government’s inaction. I support Governor (Newsom’s) proposal.”

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