Bill allowing study of racial impact of legislation advances


LITTLE ROCK — Some bills before the Legislature would be subject to racial impact studies under legislation a Senate committee advanced Thursday.

The Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs recommended SB 1093 by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, on a voice vote. It goes to the Senate.

The measure would allow for a racial impact study on any bill that would create a new criminal offense; significantly change an existing offense or the penalty for an existing offense; or change existing sentencing, parole or probation procedures.

Elliott said a request for such a study would be made the same way one for a fiscal impact study is made now.

“This would be like any other impact we do,” Elliott said. “It just gives us further information.”

Under the bill, if a racial impact statement shows that a bill would have a disparate impact on minorities, the sponsor would be required to amend the bill to lessen the impact on minorities, withdraw the bill or explain why he or she is proceeding with the bill without amending it.

Retired Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Olly Neal spoke for the bill, as did Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holiday.

“This impact study is not going to affect the enforcement of the law, arresting of individuals who need to be arrested or the incarceration of criminals,” but would simply provide information that could be considered by lawmakers, Holiday said.

The bill has been endorsed by Legislative Black Caucus.