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Legislation Would Expand Some Impact Statements to Include Equity

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The governor is now considering hundreds of bills lawmakers put on his desk.  One of them would shed light on racial disparities.

When lawmakers are considering any bill that would cost any amount of money, they receive a fiscal impact statement. But what about bills that might have a racial or ethnic impact?

Delegate Lashrecse Aird of Petersburg introduced a bill earlier this year to get at that issue, allowing chairs of House and Senate committees to ask for reports on how criminal-justice outcomes might differ along racial lines.  "For a racial and ethnic impact statement, we are looking at contributing factors that would cause a particular policy to have an adverse impact on one group of people over another."

Ashley Kenneth at the Commonwealth Institute says lawmakers should know just as much about racial disparities as they do about financial burdens. "Just as we assess impacts to our state budget with fiscal impact statements, we should also assess impacts of people in our state," Kenneth believes. "With this legislation, Virginia will join at least seven other states in creating and using a tool that will help enact criminal justice policy that will not worsen racial disparity."

Delegate Aird says she hopes the governor will sign the bill, adding that it would complement the governor's agenda on racial equity.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.