Rachel Talbot Ross in Portland, Maine during the opening of the Freedom Trail in 2007. Photo by Ramona du Houx

PORTLAND, Maine – During a virtual press conference held Wednesday morning, Assistant Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, announced legislation that will move the state forward in confronting structural racism through the use of racial impact statements in the legislative process.

A racial impact statement is a data-driven tool that provides an analysis of the impact of a proposed policy, practice, program or plan on historically disadvantaged racial populations in order to minimize adverse consequences.

L.D. 2, An Act To Require the Inclusion of Racial Impact Statements in the Legislative Process, is the first step in recognizing that many of our laws have produced disproportionate outcomes for generations of Black and indigenous populations in Maine,” said Talbot Ross. “To disrupt this historical pattern, legislators must be intentional in factoring in race throughout the development, review and adoption of public policy.”

If passed, Talbot Ross’ bill will create a required methodology and framework to assess a bill’s potential impact on historically disadvantaged racial populations. 

“I see this bill as an opportunity for Maine to incorporate the best possible evidence into our decision making,” said Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford. “This is a significant step toward advancing racial justice in Maine. In the pursuit of equality for all, the Maine Legislature would be taking a huge step forward by passing this bill.”

L.D. 2 aligns with one of the key recommendations to the Legislature made in a report to the Legislature this past fall by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations, a group Talbot Ross chairs. It also serves as part of a multi-pronged approach that Talbot Ross is implementing to integrate racial equity and justice into the core of the Legislature’s work. In addition to several bills, Talbot Ross has organized a comprehensive education and training series for all legislators, and will co-chair a newly established Equity & Justice Legislative Caucus.   

“At the end of the day, our job is to do everything in our power to improve the lives of the people we represent,” said Senate President Troy Jackson. “It’s not enough to pass legislation that sounds good on paper or adopt policy proposals with good intentions. We must ensure the laws we pass deliver for and do right by Maine people, especially Indigenous Mainers and People of Color. We don’t pass spending bills without first determining the fiscal impact. We shouldn’t pass legislation without assessing the impact policies have on historically marginalized Maine people. I’m grateful to Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross for bringing this legislation forward.”

Assistant Majority Leader Talbot Ross was joined Wednesday by speakers from the ACLU of Maine and the Providentia Group, and has received support for her bill from a wide range of groups including the Maine State Bar Association, the Coalition on Racial Equity, Maine Equal Justice, the Maine Health Equity Alliance, The Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations, The Anti-Racism Policy Group of Hope Gate Way United Methodist Church, Maine Black Community Development, Maine Council of Churches, Maine NAACP, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network, A. Philip Randolph Institute – Maine Chapter, League of Women Voters of Maine, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine Initiatives, Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Women’s Lobby, NAACP Maine State Prison Branch, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.