March 12, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

LD 2 would give lawmakers a new tool to combat racial disparities in Maine’s laws

AUGUSTA – The Maine House voted Thursday to advance a measure by Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, that would give lawmakers a new tool to combat racial disparities in Maine. 

The measure was approved “under the hammer,” or by unanimous consent. 

“LD 2 is the first step in recognizing that many of our laws have perpetuated inequities for generations of Black and Indigenous populations in Maine,” said Rep. Talbot Ross. “To disrupt this historical pattern, legislators must be intentional in factoring in race throughout the development, review and adoption of public policy.”

Talbot Ross’ bill would create an impartial, nonpartisan process to assess a bill’s potential impact on historically disadvantaged racial populations. Racial impact statements would provide data-driven analysis on pending legislation.

“This bill will change how the Maine Legislature addresses racial inequities on a structural level. I’m thrilled that my colleagues in the House have advanced this historic piece of legislation,” said Rep. Talbot Ross. “However, there are more steps we need to take to ensure that the Legislature has the data it needs to make these racial impact statements effective.”

LD 2 fulfills one of the key recommendations made last fall by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations. Talbot Ross sponsored the legislation that created the commission in 2019. She now chairs the panel.

The proposal is one of several aimed at giving policymakers the information needed to identify and address racial disparities. Talbot Ross will introduce another measure later this session that will help the state identify and gather data that will make meaningful racial impact analysis possible.

Another measure, sponsored by Rep. Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, would improve how the state collects data in order to analyze the cause of racial and ethnic disparities in health care. A legislative panel voted unanimously to advance Tepler’s bill last week.

LD 2 faces further votes in the House and Senate.

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