February 2023


April 2023 

April 2023 Legislative Update

Welcome Back to Our Second Legislative Update!

EPU’s Policy Team continues to actively monitor the progress of policies moving throughout each of the 13 Southern state legislative bodies. Since our last update, five states have adjourned their legislative sessions (Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky), and three states have convened their legislative sessions (Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana).  We have recognized that there are several policy issues that are emerging and trending in the region and look forward to providing a comprehensive summary later this year after the adjournment of all 13 state sessions. 

This update will provide a review of some of the education policies that were introduced in Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky. In honor of Earth Day being celebrated in April, we will also provide a summary of some of the bills that we’ve been monitoring related to the climate and environment and their impact on equity in the Southern region.  

We are grateful to the student members of our team – Mills Jordan of Davidson College and Ella Cogerino of Loyola University New Orleans – for their contributions to this month’s update and to our policy work overall.

Education Overview  

On the Horizon

We are continuing to monitor bills such as Alabama House Bill 7 which seeks to prohibit the “promotion, endorsement, affirmation of certain divisive concepts” in public places such as state agencies, local boards of education, and public institutes of higher education. The bill would also prohibit certain public entities from conditioning enrolment or attendance in certain classes or trainings based on race or color and would authorize the termination of employees or contractors who violate the act. “Divisive concepts” is lengthily defined in the bill but includes any concept that teaches that “any individual should be asked accept, acknowledge, affirm, or assent to a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to apologize solely on the basis of his or her race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.” The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ed Oliver, has stated that it is needed because people are concerned about “woke policies” being taught to children and has said that it’s “designed to prevent racism in schools and state agencies”. Similarly, there have been recent reports that the Louisiana Republican party wants state lawmakers to forbid the study of racism at colleges and universities, which led to the filing of a House Resolution that requests school-level reporting on programs and activities related to critical race theory, diversity, equity, and inclusion, or transformative social emotional learning.

Continued efforts such as those summarized above threaten to erode the work that has been taken on tirelessly by so many to bring us to a more evolved place in our society and regress us away from so much progress that has been made. EPU’s focus since its founding has been to confront the issue of race head-on if we expect to move forward so that our cities and towns can thrive by finding a way to unite around a common purpose. We recognize and celebrate the progress that has been made in many instances but remain alert in our recognition of the efforts still underway to undermine that progress and continue to sow divisions of anger, hate, and fear.

Climate and Environment Overview  

The effects of environmental racism have dire and often irreversible consequences and while still being thoroughly researched, the evidence has shown that race is often a more reliable indicator of proximity to pollution than income alone. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency from 2018 found that people of color faced a 28% higher health burden due to their proximity to pollution-emitting facilities than the general population, increasing to a 54% higher health burden for Black Americans. EPU is monitoring policy ideas that acknowledge the disparate impact of environmental and climate matters that are rooted in historic and systemic oppression and that take action to address inequities in Black and other oppressed communities and the needs of those communities as those most burdened by the impact of climate change, as well as those measures that have the ability to perpetuate and increase that disparate impact due to the unwillingness to address the need for change.

Our monitoring of bills related to the climate and environment across the South has shown that policies are still very divided, especially as it relates to the use of clean, renewable energy; while there are measures that encourage its use, there are still others that delay or prohibit the use of it and force states to continue to rely on energy sources that pollute the environment. Research has shown that one of the top solutions in mitigating the effects of the climate crisis is the transition to clean and/or renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, solar panels, and nuclear power. 

Below are a few examples of some of the climate and environment related legislation being introduced across the South and a brief explanation of the significance of these policies in advancing or negatively affecting equity.

A more extensive list of bills in each state that are being tracked by EPU can be found by clicking on the according state on the map below. The reports will be updated as new measures may be added and identified by EPU.

We look forward to providing our next update to you in June 2023!