Indiana Black legislators introduce legislation to ‘dismantle discriminatory systems’

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Asserting they are willing to fight “these old battles,” the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus unveiled its 2022 legislative agenda that is focused on addressing what they called the “long-term effects of racism in society” in the areas of wealth, education, health and housing.

“After failed attempts at raising the income of Black families, African Americans still battle large wealth, education, health and other gaps in this country,” Rep. Robin Shackleford, chairwoman of the IBLC, said. “It is for these reasons and more that we feel it is time not only to have this conversation, but to take action.”

The IBLC presented its legislative agenda at a press conference Tuesday in the Statehouse. Each of the 14 members of the caucus selected one issue and introduced a bill intended to provide relief. The bills range from establishing scholarships and capping tuition to giving a tax credit for child and dependent care and providing contracting opportunities to minority business, women’s business and veteran-owned small businesses.

“We have all been intentional about how we approach the dismantling of systems that have perpetuated the disenfranchisement of marginalized communities,” Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, said. She noted the effort to dismantle discriminatory systems has been going on for centuries, “but as long as the IBLC is here, we have no issue fighting these battles until our communities can claim victory.”

Among those bills is House Bill 1326, filed in “direct response” to the discriminatory housing practices that the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana has spotlighted.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, authored the bill in response to the Indianapolis woman who filed complaints against two appraisers, alleging her home was undervalued because she is Black. In addition, the representative wanted to address redlining following the lawsuit alleging Old National Bank engaged in discriminatory mortgage lending practices.

Pryor said she was not surprised by the allegations.

“To have it as a report, seeing it in black and white, you’re really reiterating what we already know that there’s a problem going on,” Pryor said. “It’s very difficult for African Americans to build wealth when they’re not having access to opportunities to even purchase a home.”

The caucus members are all Democrats, so to give their bills traction they will need to get Republicans support.

After the press conference, Shackleford singled out Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, as having already reached out to the caucus and expressed a willingness to work with the IBLC on bills that help minorities with health care. Also, Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Granger, has been “more than willing” to discuss child care legislation.

Even so, Shackleford said this session the caucus is “working a harder defense and a quicker defense” this session because of some of the bills that have emerged from interim study committees.

She noted, in particular, House Bill 1134, introduced by Rep. Tony Cook, which is a mirror to Senate Bill 167, introduced by Sen. Scott Baldwin. The bills have stirred controversy with their focus on school curriculum and prohibits the inclusion or promotion of “certain concepts” related to sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation.

Shackleford said Cook waited until the session had begun before contacting the IBLC, and they are trying to schedule a meeting about his bill.

“I don’t think it was done in a professional way or an appropriate way so (the meeting) never happened that first week” of session, Shackleford said. “So we were trying to get together at least a couple of our caucus members to give him feedback, but before we could schedule anything the bill was already up to be heard (Jan. 10). So now more of the caucus will just need to review and then put something in writing on what our opposition is.”

Pryor filed her bill Jan. 10. She said if HB 1326 does not get a hearing, she will look for other ways to elevate the conversation.

“We want to talk about housing insecurity,” Pryor said. “We want to talk about the lack of housing, whether we’re building more housing for rent or whatever, we have to address the elephant in the room and that’s one of them.”

The bills on the IBLC 2022 legislative agenda include:

SB 151  (Sen. Jean Breaux) establishing a scholarship in health care for minority students

SB 26  (Sen. Lonnie Randolph) prohibits use of consumer reports for employment purposes

SB 373 (Sen. Eddie Melton) establishes the Lake County convention and entertainment district fund

SB 234  (Sen. Greg Taylor) provides a refundable child and dependent care tax credit

HB 1016 (Rep. John Bartlett) education assistance pilot program for parents

HB 1044(Rep. Earl Harris Jr.) tuition caps

HB 1067  (Rep. Robin Shackleford) continues waiving copays for child care for eligible families

HB 1177 (Rep. Vanessa Summers) prohibits race-based hair discrimination.

HB 1267 (Rep. Vernon Smith) Authorizes Merrillville to impose a food and beverage tax

HB 1326 (Rep. Cherrish Pryor) addresses discriminatory lending and appraisal practices in housing

Legislation that has yet to receive a number includes:

HB (Rep. Ragen Hatcher) prohibits bail for nonviolent misdemeanors

HB (Rep. Carolyn Jackson) provides contracting opportunities for minority and women’s businesses as well as veteran-owned small businesses

HB (Rep. Renee Pack) requires board of directors to include underrepresented individuals

HB (Rep. Gregory Porter) exempt business personal property from property assessment and taxation

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