Posted on February 13, 2021

Report: Racist Virginia Laws Are Gone, but Inequities Linger

Sarah Rankin, Associated Press, February 10, 2021

Virginia needs sweeping changes to its schools, housing laws, criminal justice system and other areas of policy to remedy the legacy of centuries of government-sanctioned racial oppression, according to a new report the state released Wednesday.

It’s the latest effort of a commission empaneled by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, which began its work in 2019 with an examination of racist laws that — though long unenforced — had remained on the books.

Wednesday’s report, provided to The Associated Press ahead of its public release, concludes that the impacts of those now-purged laws have persisted in varying degrees, and it recommends dozens of policy changes to “dismantle this structure, and to address the lingering and disparate effects of Virginia’s segregationist past.”


While the report contains suggestions, not mandates, the effort has both support and momentum with Democrats in full control of the state government. Fifteen of the policy recommendations have been adopted into Northam’s legislative and budget agenda for the year.


The report, around 100 pages long and layered with primary sources and historical research, focuses on six policy areas: housing, education, criminal justice, health, environmental justice and agricultural equity. {snip}


The more than a dozen education policy recommendations include overhauling the school funding formula, repealing statutory language that limits the power granted to the state to draw school zone lines, and encouraging programs like choice zoning and magnet schools to improve integration.

On housing, recommended policies would aim to increase affordable housing stock and reduce evictions, including substantial changes to landlord-tenant laws.


The report also calls for:

— collecting better data on racial disparities in pretrial hearings, bail decisions, pretrial incarceration and sentencing outcomes.

— loosening or repealing restrictions on voting rights for people convicted of felonies.

— closing the gap in health care access for immigrants, including by offering prenatal care regardless of an expectant mother’s immigration status.

— establishing a tribal liaison at the state agency that handles environmental permitting and regulating.


Next, the commission is turning to investigate laws and regulations that contribute to inequity in economic achievement and stability, including policies on worker rights, consumer protection and debt collection.