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Northam recommits to addressing inequities in Virginia’s laws and regulations

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Governor Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that he will recommit to address structural racism in Virginia’s laws.

This comes as Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in the Law issued its second report outlining policy recommendations to confront the impacts of discriminatory laws.

“Our Commonwealth remains focused on acknowledging and righting the wrongs of our past,” said Northam. “This latest report makes clear that there is still work to do to shed the ugly remnants of Virginia’s history. The Commission is already having a significant impact on our shared legislative priorities and I look forward to continuing our partnership to build a more honest, equitable, and inclusive future for all.”

The Commission’s recommendations played a key role in the formation of Northam’s current legislative agenda, which includes proposals to:

  • Automatically restore the voting rights of people with felony convictions
  • Legalize adult-use marijuana
  • Abolish the death penalty
  • Invest in education infrastructure and early childhood education
  • Expand expungement of previous convictions
  • Protect the ownership rights of “heirs property”

RELATED: Northam calls for an end to death penalty, legalization of marijuana

The Commission’s work also informed many of Northam’s legislative proposals for the August 2020 special sessionthat centered on meaningful police reform and COVID-19 relief.

Northam established the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law in June 2019 and appointed its members in September 2019.

The commission was tasked with reviewing the Acts of Assembly, Code of Virginia, and administrative regulations as well as making recommendations to address laws that were intended to or could have the effect of promoting or enabling racial discrimination or inequity.

The commission’s interim report, published in December 2019, cited nearly 100 instances of overtly discriminatory language.

With the help of Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Northam proposed the unanimous passage of fourteen bills that repealed racist language related to education, housing, transportation, health care, voting, and more.

RELATED: Racist laws enshrined in Va. books uncovered, lawmakers tasked with repealing

The commission will also use this report as a tool to engage with people in the state to gain a deeper understanding of the effects of and solutions to centuries of state-sanctioned racial bias and discrimination.

The commission’s full second report is available here.

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