On Civil Rights Day at the Capitol, Local members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the HOPE Community Development Corporation met to persuade lawmakers to advance legislation that benefits the minority community.
Specifically, the groups are concerned about the fate of Senate Bill 649. It would create a Minority Economic Development Advisory Team to address the economic problems facing underserved minority populations in West Virginia.
The bill remains in the Senate Government Organization Committee after being introduced last week and is facing a final deadline for passage by Wednesday, the last day for Senators to approve bills that originated in their chamber.
The groups were also seeking to halt the passage of three bills, House Bill 4240, relating to the Uniform Controlled Substance Act, House Bill 4576, which would increase penalties for transporting controlled substances, and House Bill 4578, which would create a criminal offense of conspiracy to violate drug laws.
Reverend Matthew J. Watts with the NAACP, says while he understands the intentions of these bills, the end result will be higher incarceration rates for minorities.
“These three bills are not only going to cause a growth in our prison population, drain money away from education, job training and substance-abuse programs, and just fill up our prisons that are already overcrowded," Watts said. "These three bills that are closely connected together and there kind of going under the radar. Nobody is paying much attention to those bills. The NAACP is trying to bring those bills to light so people will pay attention.”
All three bills are on second reading in the House today and up for a vote Tuesday.