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11 changes -- B.L.A.C. says Michigan can close racial equity gaps

(WILX)
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 2:20 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - An advisory council created by the governor has recommended 11 changes they say can make the Black experience in Michigan more just.

The Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC) was created by an Executive Order of Governor Whitmer in 2020. It’s a part of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, created with the goal of identifying barriers in the Black community in education, community safety, health, and business leadership.

Read: Amendment would revise state legislative term limits in Michigan

Tuesday, BLAC made 11 policy recommendations to close those racial equity gaps and build a stronger state.

Robert Womack is a Kent County Commissioner who also serves as the council’s co-chair.

“The Council has been diligent throughout the year to create recommendations that will help Michigan be more equitable for Black communities throughout the state and tackle issues that have plagued Black communities for far too long,” said Womack.

Based on presentations by experts and other forms of research and analysis, BLAC has offered 11 policy recommendations to Gov. Whitmer:

  • Support the CROWN Act: Legislation that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and other opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles such as braids, locs, twists or Bantu knots.
  • Support a Michigan payday loan interest rate cap: Urging Michigan legislature to adopt and Gov. Whitmer to sign legislation that would cap interest rates for payday loans at 36% APR.
  • Include Black businesses in Michigan’s $10 billion federal infrastructure projects: Asking the Gov. Whitmer administration to work closely with business organizations that serve Black business owners to help Black entrepreneurs get the resources, credit and training they need to be able to participate in a meaningful way in contracting opportunities presented by the federal infrastructure investments that are coming to Michigan.
  • Support diversity on corporate boards and in c-suites: Requesting Michigan legislature to hold hearings on HB 597, which encourages corporate boards to have more diverse representation and pass the legislation.
  • Better collection and analysis of criminal justice data: BLAC recommends data collection and professional analysis be initiated with the assistance of our Attorney General, Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), Association of Michigan Prosecutors and other stakeholders to collaborate, collect and analyze data strategically.
  • Ban no-knock warrants: Urging the House Government Operations Committee to hold hearings on HB 5013 and other legislation that would ban or limit the use of no-knock or quick knock warrants, and urging the state legislature to pass meaningful reform and advise Gov. Whitmer to sign the bill after the legislature adopts it.
  • Increase school funding: Statutory changes to increase the School Aid Fund revenue by at least $3.6 billion and establish a permanent weighted funding formula based on student and community needs and universal preschool (0-3).
  • Reject censorship in history instruction: Encouraging Gov. Whitmer to ensure the goal for Michigan schools should be history instruction that is presented by professionals with the subject matter expertise, pedagogical skills, and judgment necessary to present complex information to students that are grounded in provable facts and add to the understanding of modern-day America.
  • Increase mental health supports for the Black community: Recommending 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 licensure policies to address the barriers that Black psychologists face in obtaining licensure in Michigan.
  • Ensure equitable distribution of state health funds: Ensure all Michigan communities with a significant Black population receive adequate funds to address mental health issues.
  • Protecting Black voting rights: Urge state officials to remain vigilant in the fight against schemes to disenfranchise Michiganders of color.

“We feel these recommendations will provide a solid first step towards breaking down barriers in education, community safety, health and business,” said BLAC Co-Chair Dr. Donna L. Bell.

BLAC will hold a virtual town hall meeting to discuss its policy recommendations on Thursday, May 12 at 4 p.m.

To learn more about BLAC and this upcoming event, visit www.michigan.gov/BLAC.

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