"This is not just about Latinas, this is about all communities having an opportunity to understand who is governing them."
CALIFORNIA (KABC) -- When you think of decision-making roles in government, what comes to mind? Perhaps elected positions such as a mayor, a member of congress, or a senator. However, there are hundreds of appointed positions that have a significant impact in our local communities.
"The amount of influence and decision-making authority that rests within boards and commissions is so critical, but we often don't treat it as such, because it's folded under the executive branch," said Paul Barragan-Monge, the director of mobilization for the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute.
Barragan-Monge says Latinos remain grossly underrepresented in executive branch state appointments, which includes dozens of governing bodies that oversee everything from education to the environment, and criminal justice. And Latinos have the largest representation gap among racial or ethnic groups.
"Despite making up 39% of the state population, they only constituted 18.4% of executive appointments in the governor's leadership cabinet, and it's the origin commission," said Barragan-Monge.
According to UCLA LPPI's report, among all women, Latinas remain the most underrepresented. They make up 19.4% of the state's population and 8.5% of executive appointments. The governor wields most of the power over these appointments.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has made some big strides tackling this issue during his term.
"We found that 70.7% of Latino appointees that are currently seated commissioners were appointed in just the last four years," said Barragan-Monge.
Helen Iris Torres, the CEO of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), says Newsom has helped Latinas especially.
"A lot of firsts when it comes to Latinas, the first Latina to be appointed Chief Justice of our Supreme Court. He has three Latinas serving on his cabinet, which is record breaking," she said.
But UCLA LPPI and other organizations like HOPE are asking Newsom and his administration to do more.
HOPE sponsored SB 1387, created by State Senator Monique Limon. The bill that would have directed the Office of the Governor to build the internal capacity to track and report the demographic makeup of gubernatorial appointments.
"This is not just about Latinas, this is about all communities having an opportunity to understand who is governing them," said Torres.
However, since Eyewitness News conducted interviews for this report, SB 1387 became one of several bills Newsom vetoed, saying the funding necessary is not allocated in the budget.
The UCLA report also urges the governor's office to ensure there are appropriate and defined term limits on these boards and commissions. A total of 110 out of 457 positions, there are no stated term limits.
Researchers highlight that among Latinos or Latine (a gender-neutral term), the lowest representation is in the Inland Empire while the greatest is in the Bay Area and Sacramento.
"It is government's own interest to have a diverse leadership that reflects the population because it goes through these questions of trust, of fairness of equity," said Barragan-Monge.
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