Sen. Joyce Elliott filed a bill last week to mandate the creation of a racial impact statement for certain criminal-justice bills filed in the Senate or House of Representatives.
Elliott is fighting the good fight here but this of course will not be going anywhere in the 2017 Arkansas General Assembly. Versions of this have been tried a few times in the past and been killed, and the makeup of the legislature is not exactly getting friendlier to the concept.
Elliott’s bill would require a racial impact statement for bills that “create a new misdemeanor or felony offense; substantively change an element of an existing misdemeanor or felony offense; change the penalty for an existing misdemeanor or
32 felony offense; or change existing sentencing, parole, or probation procedures.”
The Office of Economic and Tax Policy, with the assistance of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, would be tasked with preparing the statements. The statement would include: “The estimated number of criminal cases per year that the bill will affect; the impact of the bill on minority groups; the impact of the bill upon correctional facilities and services; and other matters deemed relevant to the bill at issue.”
If the impact statement showed a disparate impact on a minority group, the sponsor of the bill would have to identify in writing, in the bill, the reasons for proceeding despite the disparate impact.