Build Back Better Act, Minority Population Growth Not Matched By More Black Congressional Districts & More: November 24 Joint Center Roundup

Biden Administration

Black construction workers

After House passage, Biden continues to make Build Back Better case: Immediately following the passage of the Build Back Better Act by the House of Representatives last week, the White House released a statement from President Biden highlighting key elements of the legislation, including investments in child and senior care for workers and higher-education affordability, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Several Joint Center recommendations, including expanding the Earned Income and Child Tax credits, investing in workforce training programs, and expanding Pell Grants, landed in the bill.

Biden “angered” by verdict; respects jury decision: President Biden expressed “anger and concern” in response to a jury acquitting Kyle Rittenhouse for killing two people and wounding another in Kenosha, WI, CNBC reports while insisting that the jury’s verdict should be respected. The shootings by Rittenhouse with an AR-15-style rifle came during civil unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake a Black man, which left Blake paralyzed from the waist down. The Associated Press reports that dissatisfaction with the verdict places more political pressure on the president in light of the failure, to date, to pass police reform and voting rights legislation.

Pressure to pass voting rights laws resume: Almost immediately after President Biden signed the historic $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law, The Grio reports pressure resumed in the form of protests and rallies on the White House to enact the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Leaders await Biden’s appointment of a director for HBCUs: While Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have figured prominently in President Biden’s domestic policy agenda, Diverse Issues in Higher Education reports that HBCU advocates are awaiting the appointment of a new executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. HBCU community leaders cite the importance of filling the role to maintain momentum in support of HBCUs, especially with Vice President Kamala Harris’s historic presence as an alumna of Howard University.

White House shares Biden’s “grave concerns” about capital punishment: In the wake of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s final-hours commutation of Julius Jones, the White House says President Biden expressed “grave concerns” about the death penalty, Newsweek reports. Calls for preventing the execution of Jones, who has always maintained his innocence of the murder of businessman Paul Howell in 1999, were based on significant doubts about the conviction raised by new evidence. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has halted the use of executions on the federal level after a historically high use of capital punishment by the Trump administration. There is no timetable for when, or if, federal executions will resume.

Biden to nominate Shalanda Young for OMB director: After serving as the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young will reportedly be nominated by President Biden to serve as the permanent director for the office, The Washington Post reports. If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Young will be the first Black woman to serve as a permanent director in the office. In March, the Joint Center submitted a letter signed by nearly 30 Black organizations calling for President Biden to nominate Ms. Young for director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.


The Hill

States limit Black congressional districts despite minority population growth: Despite the fact that much of the nation’s population growth over the past decade came from communities of color, it is not resulting in the creation of many new congressional districts representing those communities by state leaders, Roll Call reports. Despite declines in the proportion of white residents, lawmakers in states including Alabama and Texas, have drawn maps that fail to create majority Black or Latina/o districts, prompting legal challenges from groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Pregnant Black woman

New law enacted for Black maternal health: The passage of legislation by Congress to establish a $15 million maternal care program within the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is being lauded as a significant win in the battle to eliminate health care disparities driving Black maternal mortality, Stat reports. It is the first of a dozen bills comprising the Black Maternal Care Momnibus to make it through Congress. Black women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement: U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has announced her retirement after nearly 30 years in Congress, The Dallas Morning News reports. Johnson says she is looking for a qualified woman to endorse as her successor.


Movement Building

Civil rights groups including Color of ChangeLawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under LawNAACPNAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF)National Action Network, and National Urban League each released statements condemning the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges related to killing two people and injuring a third during protests in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI.

The LDF released a statement from President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill welcoming the decision of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to commute the death sentence of Julius Jones hours prior to his scheduled execution, while condemning the governor commuting Jones’ sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Leaders of the National Urban League, in a separate statement, assert that the commutation of Jones’ sentence averted an “outrageous miscarriage” of justice.

The LDF joined with coalition partners, including the American Civil Liberties Union, to send a letter to a Mississippi redistricting committee regarding its obligation to open all redistricting meetings to the public.

The LDF announced in a statement that it has submitted an appellate response brief on behalf of its client Marcus Briceno, who suffered unreasonable force at the hands of Officer Blake Williams of the San Diego Police Department.

Black workers on laptop and tablet

In response to the passage of the Build Back Better Act by the House of Representatives, National Urban League released a statement from CEO Marc Morial urging the U.S. Senate to also pass the legislation, which includes provisions for investments in affordable housing, job training, and workforce development and minority business development.

The National Urban League released a statement praising the exoneration of the men wrongly convicted of assassinating Malcolm X by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Interim President Wade Henderson released a statement acknowledging steps taken by Meta (formerly Facebook) to address civil rights shortcomings on its platforms, but urging the company to do more to “fix problems of discrimination, disinformation, hate, violence, and inequity.” In July, the Joint Center released a joint statement with The Leadership Conference and several other civil rights groups on the civil rights audit.

Color of Change released an open letter to the U.S. Department of Justice expressing concern over the introduction of more than 100 anti-protest bills introduced by state lawmakers since 2020, including 81 in 2021.


Events

Senator Sherrod Brown

The Joint Center is hosting its last Voice at the Table of 2021 Dec. 8 with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Joint Center President Spencer Overton will be in conversation with Brown about his economic policy priorities, including affordable housing and tax policy, as well as his perspective on diversity among both congressional staff and appointees in the Administration. RSVP here.

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators presents its 45th Annual Legislative Conference, “Prioritizing Solutions to Challenges within Our Communities,” at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta, Nov. 30-Dec. 3.


The Joint Center thanks the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Boulé Foundation, the Democracy Fund, Toyota Motor North America, Inc., UPS, and the Walmart Foundation for additional support that has allowed us to do some of our COVID-19 and Black Communities work.

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