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Proposed Bill Would Require Ky. Lawmakers Weigh Racial Impact Of New Criminal Justice Laws

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A Kentucky state lawmaker has pre-filed a bill for the 2019 legislative session that would require racial and ethnic impact statements when the commonwealth considers new criminal justice or safety laws.

Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal’s bill would require the Legislative Research Commission to compile reports to discover what unintended consequences a bill could have on the state’s minority communities.

The Louisville Democrat likened the idea of racial and ethnic impact statements to fiscal statements, which explore the financial impact of proposed laws.

It would also mean the General Assembly would have more tools to work with in areas like community health.

"When you go down this road, it also gives you a basis to build up a body of information that’s focused on issues that help educate policy makers and they can be applied in a broad sense to other areas where we find that there’s a problem,” Neal said.

He said having the analysis available would help the state make fewer mistakes when implementing new laws.

"I'm going back to slavery, all those things that have happened in between — the segregation. Those things are still with us in the sense that the structures of institutional and structural racism still exist and they manifest themselves and, quite often, it’s done in a way that we are not aware of,” Neal said.

If passed, BR-3 would affect future laws affecting sentencing, probation, parole policies, and other parts of the criminal justice system.

Neal said he believes the bill would improve the fairness and effectiveness of Kentucky’s public policies.

Other priorities during the upcoming session for Neal include restoring voter rights and expanding those eligible for the jury pool — the last of which was recommended by State Supreme Court Justice John Minton's commission on diversity.