SACRAMENTO, Calif. — During Women’s History Month, Assembly member Tina McKinnor is recognizing all those who came before her in the California State legislature.
McKinnor has dedicated one wall in her office to the 21 Black women who’ve served in the Legislature.
“It’s just important to see 21 Black women. It’s history, and it’s about standing on their shoulders — the things that they did — it shapes some of the stuff that I’m doing,” McKinnor said.
California’s legislature consists of 120 members. The current body is the most diverse group of lawmakers in the state’s history. While McKinnor is proud to be one of the 50 women, she says there’s more work to do to advance equity.
“We don’t always get to highlight Black women, so being a Black woman, I wanted to show some Black girl magic and show the importance of Black women here and that we don’t have enough of us,” McKinnor said.
Familiar faces on the photo wall include: Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, and LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
The first picture on the wall is of Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who was the first Black woman elected to the Legislature in 1966. Her daughter Autumn Burke also served in the legislature, and is who McKinnor worked for as her chief of staff.
McKinnor is thrilled to showcase her predecessors. She also hopes it serves as an inspiration for more women who look like her to run for office.
“It’s important for us to be at the table because we look at things a little bit differently with the history that we have with this country and this state and so we’re always making sure that there’s equity,” McKinnor said.
Equity has been at the center of McKinnor’s policymaking. On Dec. 5, the first day of the new legislative year, she introduced AB 1, a bill to allow capital staff members to join a union.
This is a personal issue for McKinnor, having worked as part of a capital staff.
“We need to make sure that we have pay equity. We want to make sure that the staff is in a workplace. This is for our current staff and future staff,” McKinnor said.
Similar legislation has failed four times in the past. Past versions of the bill have failed to get out of the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee.
However, McKinnor is the new chair of that committee, which could be the change that allows the bill to advance to the governor’s desk.
Restorative justice initiatives and breaking the cycle of recidivism are also a priority for McKinnor as well. She is co-author of ACA 4 which would allow incarcerated people the right to vote. If ACA 4 makes it out of the state legislature, it would be put on the 2024 ballot for voters to make the final decision.
The Southern California legislator introduced AB 1418, which would discourage landlords from conducting a background check on prospective tenants. The bill is designed to set a housing standard across the state, superseding local policies that McKinnor feels are inadequate. The policies set in place were to disproportionately affect Black and Brown people, according to an LA Times investigation from 2020.
Additionally, she authored AB 974, which aims to waive the $29 fee for an incarcerated person to get a birth certificate.
McKinnor says this bill will help streamline the process for people released from prisons to get their California ID. Access to government documents essential for people to land a job, or open a bank account when they’re released from prison.
McKinnor hopes by working on these pieces of legislation, she can show how important it is to have a diverse group of legislators.
She also has made it a personal goal to get 20 more Black women elected to the State Assembly and Senate over the next 10 years.
“Who will be next? We have 2024 and 2026 election cycles and I can’t wait to see who’s going to text this spot right here,” Mckinnor said, acknowledging the open spot on her photo wall.
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