Should summer debate on racial inequality stop at police accountability?

Should summer debate on racial inequality stop at police accountability?

By Keith M. Phaneuf, CT Mirror, June 17, 2020. Available Here.

While Connecticut’s commercial reopening progresses, state lawmakers still haven’t settled on a date or agenda for a special legislative session this summer. The sticking point isn’t centered on the usual arguments about highway tolls or taxation, however. It’s about racial inequality.

Simply put, should the July special session be limited to police accountability reforms that are relatively easy to implement without major expense?

Or should longstanding disparities in health care, education, housing, and economic opportunity — recently exposed and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic — also be on the table, even if their solutions are far more difficult and costly?

Democratic lawmakers, who hold majorities in both the House and Senate, still haven’t resolved these questions.

“If you had a life-threatening illness, would you deal with it immediately, or would you put it off?” asked Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, a member of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. “Some things are urgent and require urgent care.”

National outrage against racism and police violence since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has galvanized legislators in Connecticut and elsewhere to act.

But Porter, who favors a broader agenda for the special session targeted by leaders for mid-July, said the problems of racial inequality extend far beyond police violence. And the pandemic has exposed Connecticut’s racial gaps in a manner rarely seen, and one that deserves immediate attention, she added.

COVID-19-related deaths and infection rates are disproportionately higher among minorities, as is unemployment.

Connecticut municipalities are projecting $470 million in pandemic-related revenue losses and added costs, and most of the state’s cash-strapped urban centers are the least prepared fiscally to absorb this economic shock.

Minorities comprise a significant share of Connecticut’s nursing home workers, who insist they risked infection daily caring for vulnerable seniors — while lacking adequate protective gear.

“We know there are broad issues related to racial inequality,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven. “The discussion needs to begin with police accountability, but it has to contain more than just police accountability.”

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