Community's proposals to address racial disparities get support from the governor


Gov. Mark Dayton says he supports proposals laid out by black community leaders, aimed at addressing disparities between black and white Minnesotans.

Wednesday, a group of community leaders pitched proposals to lawmakers with the hopes of starting conversations that will continue in future legislative sessions. It's being called the United Black Legislative Agenda.

In his statement, the governor mentions his push to solve the issue of racial disparities, noting he'd hoped that Minnesotans of color would play a big role in figuring out how to handle that problem.

"I was very pleased to see African American community leaders, activists and faith leaders come together to propose their priority initiatives," Dayton says.

The governor says he endorses the agenda, which calls for support for African American businesses, summer job programs, expanding paid family leave for working parents, voting rights restoration and opposition to private prisons (more on that below).

He also urges Legislature to involve the groups, moving forward.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith says she's looking forward to working with the Legislature and the group this year.

More on the agenda

The agenda was put together by a number of organizations, including African American Leadership Forum, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, Council of Minnesotans of African Heritage, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the Somali Community of Minnesota and the Urban League, according to the Facebook Page.

Here's some of what's been proposed:

  • A fund to help start businesses owned by black Minnesotans
  • Summer job programs in the Twin Cities specifically for black teenagers
  • A ban on private prisons
  • Allowing people who've served their criminal sentence to vote again
  • And increase the penalties for hate crimes committed against Muslims and immigrants

To see a copy of the proposals, click here.

Gov. Dayton's proposed budget includes $100 million to improve disparities in the state. It calls for expanding workforce programs, helping college completion and increasing home ownership among minorities, according to the Pioneer Press.

Earlier this week, a new subcommittee dedicated to focusing on racial disparities in Minnesota was announced.

Compared to Hispanics and whites, the state's black community faces significant unemployment rates, an income that's less than half of what white Minnesotans make, and one of the highest unemployment gaps in the country.

Those facts led lawmakers to consider addressing racial economic disparities in a special legislative session, but that didn't happen.

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