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In Wake of Scandals, Black Lawmakers Connect Policy with Race

Del. Lamont Bagby in 2014
Del. Lamont Bagby heads the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Craig Carper/WCVE News

Last week, the House of Delegates took a final vote on a tax cut bill. In another year, it might have been a wonky discussion centered on standard deductions and tax brackets.

This year -- the year of a blackface scandal that has ensnared Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring -- it was also about race.

Democratic Delegate Marcia Price was among the half dozen members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus who spoke out against the Republican-authored bill. She said it wasn't enough to condemn Northam and Herring and go back to business.

“We were sent here to legislate,” she said. “And so right now, our first step that we can take towards true racial equity is to vote ‘no’ on this bill.”

Price voted against the bill, but several of her colleagues eventually relented after they pushed Republican leaders for more funding in the budget for other priorities, like eviction diversion programs and high poverty schools.

For the black caucus, it’s the start of a long-overdue discussion about how policies in the General Assembly affect minority communities.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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