Maine Legislature Approves Bill to Create Racial Impact Statements

Racial impact statements will be a key tool for centering racial equity in Maine’s lawmaking

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
March 12, 2021 8:15 am

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The Maine Legislature has passed LD 2, signaling a bipartisan commitment by Maine lawmakers to center racial equity in the legislative process.

LD2 would create a process for using racial impact statements to inform legislators when considering new laws. Racial impact statements are a tool for determining whether a proposed bill may have an adverse effect on historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups.

The Maine Senate voted 25-7 late last night, and the Maine House voted unanimously yesterday to approve the bill.

“On behalf of the Maine Coalition on Racial Equity and other supporters of LD 2, we are thrilled that the legislature took this important step today,” said Joby Thoyalil, senior policy advocate at Maine Equal Justice. “While racial impact statements will not end racism, they are a concrete step that will help Maine lawmakers make more fair and just laws, especially in areas where we see clear disparities based on race. That’s why CORE’s member organizations, who all work in different areas, but see the disparities in our own work, enthusiastically support this bill.”

LD 2 will create a pilot for the use of racial impact statements by the legislature in 2022. The pilot will then be used as the basis for implementing racial impact statements for future legislatures.

While policies may be race neutral on their face, they can perpetuate racial disparities in their implementation. Racial impact statements provide lawmakers important information to evaluate the racial effects of a proposed bill before it becomes a law.

LD 2 received overwhelming support during its public hearing last month, with more than 70 pieces of written testimony offered in support.

The bill faces further votes in both chambers. If it goes into law, Maine will join seven other states that use racial impact statements to inform their lawmaking.

The following statements can be attributed as noted:

Alison Beyea, Executive Director, ACLU of Maine

“This vote is an important acknowledgment by the legislature that racial equity matters in Maine. For too long, we’ve made laws without enough information. We’ve been guided by bias or ignorance, and as a result, perpetuated a system designed to create better outcomes for white people, and worse outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities. Racial impact statements will be the first step legislators can take to begin undoing systemic racism, and forwarding policies that are just and equitable for all Mainers.”

Whitney Parrish, Director of Advocacy and Communications, Health Equity Alliance (HEAL)

“The passage of LD 2 is an important and powerful step in acknowledging the harmful role and impacts of racial inequity in our state. It acknowledges that we can all do better to eliminate intended and unintended consequences in our policy and lawmaking that hurt our community members of color, especially when we have the right tools to evaluate impact. This is a critical step toward building equity and justice in Maine — for all Mainers and those to come.”

James Myall, Policy Analyst, Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP)

“It’s easy to examine the effect of a law after it’s been passed. If enacted, LD 2 will empower legislators with a fuller understanding of policy proposals before a bill becomes a law, and to change legislation to reduce harm to Maine families. This bill gives policymakers a powerful tool to advance racial justice.”

Mufalo Chitam, Executive Director, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (MIRC)

“We’re so delighted that LD 2 has passed through the Maine Legislature — it presents a new beginning for lawmaking in Maine. While racial impact statements alone will not end racism, voting for LD 2 is an action legislators have taken in the present that will have a long-lasting impact. MIRC will continue to advocate that the findings of racial impact statements are considered in decision making, and that any funding needed to mitigate the negative impact on Black, indigenous and other communities of color be allocated accordingly.”

Amy Halsted, Co-Director, Maine People’s Alliance

“Maine People’s Alliance is heartened by the support for LD 2. We know legislation that’s thought to be race neutral can actually hurt Maine’s communities of color, and this will help us start the work of understanding when this is happening, and how we can fix it. LD 2 is a vital part of ensuring that all Maine’s laws and policies serve all Mainers.”

Destie Hohman Sprague, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby

“Racism and sexism work together to create more barriers and produce more adverse outcomes among our neighbors and in our communities, which is why the Maine Women’s Lobby prioritizes racial equity in our gender equity work. LD2 moves us closer to the structural change we are all working toward.”

Nicole Clegg, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

“As health care providers, we see the impact of racial disparities and barriers our patients face every day. If we are going to live up to the values of our state we must actively work toward racial equity. Let’s be clear: it took centuries to create the systems that led to the disparities and inequality we see today. While we won’t eliminate them overnight, racial impact statements are one tool to bring us closer to a fairer, more just society.”

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