During a Washington state Senate committee hearing last Thursday, Republicans were having issues understanding a proposal requiring the state to issue racial-impact statements for pieces of legislation upon request, The Stranger reports.
According to the report, a racial-impact statement would assess whether certain laws would disproportionately affect certain groups of people, in either a good way or a bad way, and inform lawmakers of any such effects.
However, according to The Stranger, many Republicans thought it was some kind of bailout for minority groups.
"I guess I don't understand why our laws that we already have don't already have the oversight of this particular situation that you're talking about. So are you indicating that we would then change our laws, that if you are someone of color and you commit a crime, that your sentence would be different than someone who is not of color?" state Sen. Barbara Bailey of Skagit County reportedly asked.
State Sen. Jim Honeyford, however, took it just a step further, expressing his thoughts about people of color and those who are poor. "It's generally accepted that the poor are more likely to commit crimes," he opined. "And generally, I think, accepted that people of color are more likely poor than not. So how does that factor into your equation?"
"I think that's a really good point," John Steiger, executive director of the state council that would be responsible for preparing the statements, chimed in. "I'd like to make the point that just because we can show that there's disproportionality, it doesn't necessarily mean … that's the result of anyone doing anything wrong. It may just be reflecting underlying base rates of behavior."
Democratic state Sen. Bob Hasegawa further pointed out to Honeyford, "It's probably true that there's more people of color in jails or facing prosecutions. But these types of analyses will help us get to the root of what is actually causing that kind of disparate treatment."
"I said the poor are more likely to commit crimes, and, uh, colored most likely to be poor," Honeyford responded, sticking to his guns. "I didn't say anything else other that. And I believe that's an accepted fact, and if you check any of your sociology books or anything else, you'll find that's an accepted fact of our society."
Read more at The Stranger.