Famed in the current political moment for uniformly progressive legislation and the Assembly and state Senate members who write those laws, California was very much not always in the liberal vanguard.
We weren’t just the state that produced in one case and nurtured in the other Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
As late as 1964, the Golden State was also one that passed a blatantly racist housing law that allowed realtors and property sellers to openly discriminate against Black, Latino and Asian families by refusing to sell houses to them.
Proposition 14 — which garnered 65% of the vote here — was overturned by both the California and United States Supreme Courts as clearly violating the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
But there’s an even older discriminatory law still on the books in our state — in fact, it’s part of the California Constitution, placed there in 1950 by another ballot issue.
That amendment created the nation’s only state law that lets voters veto public housing projects. There’s no denying that the provision was passed to keep Black families out of White neighborhoods.
Now, two state senators, Ben Allen of Torrance and Scott Wiener of San Francisco, are properly backing a move to get the law off the state’s books.
But, as the Associated Press reported last week, “the latest repeal attempt has hit a snag — not because of organized opposition, but for lack of financial support. It costs a lot to change the California Constitution, and supporters have not found anyone willing to pay for it.”
Since the Legislature can’t change the constitution unless voters also approve it, there needs to be a statewide vote as well.
And there’s no point in doing that without a political campaign of persuasion. And analysts are putting the price tag on that electioneering at about $20 million.
So far, no one has ponied up anything like that kind of cash in order for California to do the right thing. “It’s not the type of ballot measure that automatically draws in money,” said Scott Wiener.
Well, how about the California Association of Realtors?
The group got the law passed in 1950, and now opposes it. So how about backing the campaign to strike it?