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U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist calls for racial impact score on federal legislation

The proposed rule could address racial disparities that stem from federal legislation.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, is proposing that the House Rules Committee require legislation coming to the House floor include a Racial and Ethnic Impact Score, the goal being to providing federal lawmakers a better understanding of the impact legislation will have across all races.

“We, as legislators, should be aware of and intentional about the racial impact of the policies we make," said Crist in testimony last week before the House Rules Committee. “Awareness and intentionality will be important tools for fighting racism — however insidious or accidental — in our policies."

The score would be compiled by the Congressional Budget Office, which already provides similar analysis upon request, according to Crist. Just as committee reports are required to include budgetary impact information, legislation should require a score for racial impact, said Crist, who believes the score will help close racial disparities in health, income, life expectancy, wealth and education.

How the score will be computed is not outlined in Crist’s proposal, but he said it would provide federal lawmakers automatic access to data analyzing the repercussions proposed legislation will have on communities of color.

“A racial impact score won’t end injustice, but it will be a good start,” Crist said.

Experts say the effectiveness of such a score will largely be based on the methodology of how it will be computed. Without a concrete plan of measurement, experts are unable to assess the possible outcomes.

If the score is similar to the current budget impact analysis, “it might give people pause," said Steven Tauber, a political science professor at the University of South Florida’s School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies. "It might cause some changes to bills if there is what seems to be a negative impact on racial and ethnic minorities.”

Having a nonpartisan, quantifiable variable attached to specific pieces of legislation could be incredibly useful for politicians, researchers, and journalists, said Tauber.

“More information is always good and always helpful.” However, without a concrete plan, it’s unclear how beneficial or feasible Crist’s proposal is, according to experts.

It may give congressional leaders an additional piece of information to point to, especially during campaigns, to indicate where legislators stand ideologically, said Hans Hassell, assistant professor of political science at Florida State University.

“When something’s measured," Hassell said, "it’s a lot easier to point to and recognize it.”

This story was funded in part through a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. Donors are not involved in the reporting or editing process.

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