Michigan’s Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC) announced Tuesday, May 10, 11 policy recommendations to close racial equity gaps in Michigan.
The recommendations center on proposing investments and policy changes in education, as well as community safety, small business growth, and health — all with the goal of advancing racial equity in the world. Michigan, according to a press release from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. .
Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the council’s recommendations are “a step in the right direction.”
“We are committed to working together and implementing these recommendations as we build a more inclusive state and continue to address the kitchen table issues that matter most to working families and communities of color, including good schools, good jobs, clean water, safe roads, and more,” said Whitmer.
Created by the governor in late 2020, 16 members have been appointed to the council with a mission to identify barriers faced by black Michigan residents in education, community safety, health care and business. After identifying problems, the board makes recommendations to the governor on how best to resolve them.
“The council has been diligent throughout the year to create recommendations that will help Michigan be fairer to black communities across the state and address issues that have plagued black communities for too long” , said Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack, who serves as co-chairman of the council.
According to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, subject matter experts have made presentations to the board on a variety of issues over the past year.
Based on these presentations and other forms of research and analysis, the board offered the following policy recommendations to Whitmer:
- Support the CROWN Act: Legislation that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, i.e. denial of employment and other opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles such as braids, braids, locs, twists or Bantu knots.
- Support an interest rate cap for payday loans in Michigan: Urge the Michigan Legislature to pass, and Whitmer to sign, legislation that would cap payday loan interest rates at 36% APR.
- Include Black Businesses in Michigan’s $10 Billion Federal Infrastructure Projects: Asking Whitmer to work with organizations that serve Black business owners to help them get the resources, credit and training needed to be able to participate in contracting opportunities presented by upcoming federal infrastructure investments in Michigan.
- Support diversity on boards and C-suites: Ask the Michigan Legislature to hold hearings on Bill 597, which encourages boards to have more diverse representation, and to pass the legislation.
- Better collection and analysis of criminal justice data: Data collection and professional analysis should be initiated with the assistance of the Attorney General, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), the Michigan Attorneys Association and others stakeholders to strategically collaborate, collect and analyze data.
- Prohibit no-knock warrants: Urge the House Government Operations Committee to hold hearings on House Bill 5013 and other laws that would prohibit or limit the use of denial or quick-strike warrants; urging the state legislature to pass reforms and advising Whitmer to sign the bill after the legislature passes it.
- Increase school funding: Legislative changes to increase School Support Fund revenues by at least $3.6 billion and establish a permanent weighted funding formula based on student and community needs and universal early childhood education.
- Reject Censorship in History Education: Encourage Whitmer to ensure that the goal for Michigan schools is history education presented by professionals with subject matter expertise, pedagogical skills and judgment needed to present students with complex information based on provable facts and add to understanding of America today.
- Increase Mental Health Supports for the Black Community: Recommend that Michigan set a goal of increasing the number of Black mental health service providers by 20% each year over five years. The health committee recommends reviewing state licensing policies to overcome barriers black psychologists face in getting licensed in Michigan.
- Ensure an equitable distribution of state health funds: Ensure that all Michigan communities with large black populations receive sufficient funds to address mental health issues.
- Protect Black Voting Rights: Urge state officials to remain vigilant in combating schemes to disenfranchise Michiganders of color.
“BLAC members have worked hard to identify the needs of the Black community and we believe these recommendations will be a solid first step toward breaking down barriers in education, community safety, health and business.” , said Dr. Donna L. Bell, board co-chair.
The council will hold a virtual town hall meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, to discuss his policy recommendations. The event is open to the public.
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