Team Projects

Each year, Minority Political Leadership Institute program participants work on project teams to advance the understanding of issues facing underserved communities in Virginia. The team project experience facilitates experiential learning of politics in action to garner networks, contacts and resources for effective information sharing, collaboration and decision-making. The diverse nature of the teams provides excellent opportunities for learning new perspectives and networking across Virginia, which assists participants in identifying cutting-edge solutions that fit the community’s needs. Project teams also provide a venue for applying new skills, developing creative strategies for solving problems, as well as a laboratory for working on diverse teams.

Since 2012, Minority Political Leadership Institute program participants have worked on projects designed to examine the racial impact of proposed or passed legislation from the General Assembly. The purpose of this analysis is to examine how specific legislation promotes or reduces racial/ethnic disparities on minority communities within the commonwealth of Virginia. Projects seek to answer the ways in which the policy may enhance racial disparities, reduce racial disparities and/or have racial/ethnic impact.

Conducting legislative racial impact analysis is an important tool in examining the effects of public policy on minority communities in the commonwealth of Virginia.


HB 142 Public Transit; Transit Ridership Incentive Program

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Jumoke Akinrimsi, Equity & Community Impact Specialist, Virginia Department of Emergency Management
Lamar Bates, Manager of Safety, Training and Labor Relations, Keolis Rail Services Virginia 
Arrington Evans, Intern, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Kelly Evans, Housing Outreach Specialist, Anthem Healthkeepers
Lawrence Green, ISAEP Post-secondary Liaison, Richmond Public School 
Trina Louis, Policy Advisor, Richmond City Social Services
Melissa Mason, Program Analyst, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
Freddy Mejia, Policy Analyst, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analyst
LaChelle Waller, Director, Virginia Commonwealth University

Changes from a maximum of 25 percent to a minimum of 25 percent the percentage of Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP) funds required to be used to support the establishment of programs to reduce the impact of fares on low-income individuals. This change expires on July 1, 2024. The bill also requires at least 25 percent of TRIP funds to be used to support regional transit initiatives and provides that the Commonwealth Transportation Board has the discretion to allocate the remaining funds available as authorized by law and based on the programs and initiatives submitted during the application process.

HB1276 Comprehensive Plan; Healthy Communities Strategy

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Mel Borja, Policy Analyst, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis
Krystle Dorsey, Secretary, Urban League of Greater Richmond Young Professionals
Tiffany Garner, Community Violence Initiatives Manager, Giffords Law Center
Edgar Greer, Lieutenant, Division of Patrol Operations, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department
Denise Harrington, Music Educator, Henrico County Public Schools
Paula Robinson, Associate Director of Equity & Engagement, State Council of Higher Education of Virginia
Jalesha Smith, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Analyst, City of Norfolk
Dominique Thaxton, Ninth District Council Liaison, City of Richmond Council
Jeffery Wilson, Associate Professor, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University

Authorizes cities with populations greater than 20,000 and counties with populations greater than 100,000 to consider, at the next and all subsequent reviews of the comprehensive plan, adopting a healthy community’s strategy. The bill provides that the locality's strategy shall be to identify neighborhoods with major sources of pollution or hazardous waste, to identify objectives and policies to reduce health risks in such neighborhoods, to promote civic engagement by residents of such neighborhoods, and to prioritize improvements and programs that address the needs of such neighborhoods.

HB 804 Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act; nonrefundable application fee, limitations

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Sharika Bivens, Intensive Case Management Caseworker, International Rescue Committee
Robin Buskey, Policy Analyst, Virginia Department of Health
Deardrian Carver, Chief Customer Relations Officer, Virginia Retirement System
Phyllis Haynes, Co-Director and program specialist, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
David Sams, Executive Director, The Community Tax Law Project
Ravynn Sykes, Front Desk Coordinator, Career Services, Virginia Commonwealth University
Satara Woodson, Family Engagement Supervisor, City of Richmond Department of Social Services
Percy Wyatt, Program and Operations Supervisor, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities

Places limitations on when a landlord may charge a nonrefundable application fee in addition to a refundable application deposit. The bill prohibits a landlord with more than four rental dwelling units or more than a 10 percent interest in more than four rental dwelling units from charging prospective tenants any nonrefundable application fee in excess of the amount necessary to reimburse the landlord for any actual out-of-pocket expenses paid by the landlord to a third party performing a number of pre-occupancies checks on the applicant. The bill allows an applicant to choose to provide certain information to the landlord in the form of a portable tenant screening report in lieu of paying an application fee. When an applicant chooses not to provide such report, a landlord that owns four or fewer rental dwelling units may charge such applicant actual out-of-pocket expenses paid by the landlord to a third party performing certain pre-occupancy checks on the applicant or, in the case of an application for a public housing unit, an application fee of no more than $32, including any actual out-of-pocket expenses paid to a third party by the landlord performing background, credit, or other pre-occupancy checks on the applicant.

HB 69 Grocery Investment Program and Fund

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Taryn Anthony, internal policies and procedures specialist, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Tracey Dunn, field operations specialistU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Stephen Miller-Pitts, contracting specialist, Department of Defense
Grant Rissler, assistant director, Office of Public Policy Outreach, Virginia Commonwealth University
Barbara Williams-Lewis, administrative assistant, Altria LLC

In the 2018 session of the Virginia General Assembly, multiple pieces of legislation were brought to committee, proposing the creation of a fund to catalyze public-private partnerships to expand access to Virginians residing in food deserts. Through the creation of the fund, underserved communities would see the construction, rehabilitation and expansion of food retailers in their communities ameliorate food deserts.   

SB 909/HB 1408 Virginia Fair Housing Law; unlawful discriminatory housing practices

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Saman Aghaebrahim, special assistant, Office of the Governor of Virginia
Erica Brown-Meredith, assistant professor, Longwood University
Tarik Claiborne, regional portfolio manager, Virginia Housing Development Authority
Danielle Richardson, deputy clerk, Loudon County General District Court
Kera Woodard, equal employment opportunity program specialist, Virginia Department of Human Resource Management

This report provides a legislative racial impact analysis of Senate Bill (SB) 909, a proposed bill in the Virginia General Assembly, to expand the Virginia Fair Housing Law to include lawful sources of income. Specifically, this report examines state and county source of income laws and their variances by race and ethnicity. 

SB 106 Congressional and state legislative districts; standards and criteria

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Amber Adams, internal audit supervisor, Virginia Housing Development Authority
Kristen Dahlman, senior policy analyst, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
John Darnell Hicks, counselor, Southside Virginia Community College
Cassandra Reynolds, senior Pro Bono Coordinator, Hunton Andrew and Kurth LLP
Vanessa Walker Harris, director, Office of Family Health Services, Virginia Department of Health

This report examines Senate Bill (SB) 106, introduced during the 2018 Virginia General Assembly session to address the criterion of redistricting and the specific impact on racial and ethnic minorities. This legislation is a direct response to previous legislative attempts to address gerrymandering and remains an evolving issue in the Commonwealth.

HB 834/SB 449 Virginia Growth and Opportunity Act

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Chika Anyadike, legislative aide, Virginia General Assembly
Saajida Chohan, assistant professor of English, John Tyler Community College
Ericka Hairston, Assistant hall director, Virginia Commonwealth University
Lynette Plummer, executive assistant to the attorney general and chief deputy attorney general, Office of the Attorney General
Anita Yearwood, conference and marketing coordinator, Virginia Municipal League

GO Virginia is an economic development initiative that seeks to preempt the harsh effects of federal budget cuts on Virginia’s economy, which is overly dependent on public-sector jobs. It promotes private sector job growth and workforce development through the use of state-based grants to invest in regionally significant capital projects that call for collaboration between localities, businesses, and education. It is important to be intentional in pursuing GO Virginia’s goals, otherwise this legislation may only allocate grants to institutions, organizations, and localities that already have sizeable resources. A critical question rests on how to ensure that low-income and minority communities can maximize the benefits of the legislation. The populations that are most affected by this legislation would depend on how the legislation is implemented. If minority communities are excluded from the process, then it is likely these communities would be insulated from the positive outcomes. It is imperative that minorities are adequately represented in the decision making process. This report explores why minority communities should be represented on the regional councils, which are the catalysts for the proposal process. By being proactive there is an opportunity to provide the same advantages to minority business development. We also explore how to strengthen the minority workforce to better compete for in-demand careers within the emerging industries that this legislation sets out to promote.  

HB 828 Eligibility for TANF with drug-related felonies

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Greg Hopkins, community programs manager, Department of Justice Services
Carla Jackson, assistant commissioner for legal affairs, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Rana Wilson, senior systems engineer, CSRA Inc.
Ramunda Young, campus and community relations/entrepreneur, Northern Virginia Community College; MahoganyBooks; Ramunda Young Inc.

House Bill 828 (HB828) was proposed in 2016 to remove the ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for individuals with felony-related drug convictions who are otherwise eligible to receive benefits. The TANF program is designed to help low income families achieve self-sufficiency. States receive block grants to design and operate programs that accomplish one of the purposes of the TANF program: (1) provide assistance to needy families so children can be cared for in their own homes; (2) reduce the dependency of parents by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage; (3) prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies; (4) encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Section 401). With nearly 700,000 people released from state and federal prison each year, access to TANF benefits is particularly critical for helping formerly incarcerated individuals transitioning back to their home communities. Significant disparities in convictions and incarceration coupled with variations in state population between Whites and Nonwhites translate into a disproportionate impact of the felony drug ban (The Sentencing Project, 2015). Virginia is one of 14 states with a full ban on TANF benefits for individuals with felony-related drug convictions. Adoption of HB828 proposes to eliminate this lifetime ban and provide an opportunity for low income families to meet their basic needs during the period in which they are in most need. 

SJ 6 Establishment of charter schools in the commonwealth of Virginia

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Shermese Epps, legal assistant, Vince and Vince LP
Edward Reed, chief of staff, Senate of Virginia, Sen. Rosalyn Dance
Brenda Sampe, family services supervisor, Chesterfield Colonial Heights Department of Social Services
Germika Pegram, clinical supervisor and agency clinician, Strategic Youth Services
Courtney Warren, policy analyst, Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice

Virginia is facing significant challenges related to public education such as decreased funding for public education, decreased teacher salaries, and overcrowded classrooms. Senate Joint Resolution 6 was a bill proposed in 2016 that sought to grant the Board of Education authority, subject to criteria and conditions prescribed by the General Assembly, to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth. There are racial implications related to the creation and authorization of charter schools and this report details those impacts and creates a set of recommendations to eliminate racial implementations when determining who authorizes charter schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A Racial Impact Analysis of SB 30: Medicaid Expansion

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Cindy Davis, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
Robert Irving, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Kimberly Pope, Department of Defense
Monica Reid, Fairfax County

The focus of this report is to provide a racial equity impact analysis of Senate Bill (SB) 30, the Senate legislative vehicle for the appropriations of the budget submitted by the Governor of Virginia for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. SB 30 included a provision called “Marketplace Virginia” as an alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion in Virginia.  This compromise bill would have covered an estimated 430,000 Virginians who fall in the Medicaid coverage gap by assisting them in purchasing private insurance. This report provides a racial equity impact analysis of the failure of the Virginia General Assembly to pass SB 30. The racial and ethnic impact of this proposed, but failed, legislation is important because minorities in Virginia disproportionately face disparities in health care access and quality. This racial impact analysis captures and reports the potential impact of this legislation by race in the commonwealth of Virginia. The primary recommendation includes raising eligibility requirements to a minimum of 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Virginia’s current eligibility requirements are so strict that although it is ranked 7th in per capita personal income, Virginia ranked 43rd in Medicaid enrollment as a proportion of the state’s population and 47th in per capita Medicaid spending.     

A Racial Impact Analysis of HB 936: Accessibility of Electronic Textbooks

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Melanie Avery, Avery Strategy LLC
Theresa Cry, Virginia Commonwealth University
Linda Haskins, Dominion Energy
Branden Riley, Babcock and Wilcox

The economic and social consequences of the lack of access to technology for students in the Commonwealth of Virginia are real and significant. This report provides a legislative racial impact analysis of House Bill (HB) 936, a proposed bill in the Virginia General Assembly, prohibiting school boards from making electronic textbooks available for students, unless the school board adopts a plan to ensure that e-textbooks are available on or before July 1, 2017. The bill focuses solely on developing a plan for installing prior to implementing electronic textbooks in K-12 classrooms. Electronic textbooks are important as they offer updated content, ease of accessibility, multimedia features to enhance the learning experience, and the ability for educators to customize learning. Delegating this decision to each local school board in Virginia raises important potential racial implications, including the digital divide. Previous research suggests a correlation between the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch and the lack of availability of electronic textbooks. Districts with high rates of students on free and reduced lunch have a high population of minority students. This analysis provides maps that capture the trends on the probability of providing electronic textbooks for high minority areas across the state. The primary recommendation is to advance policy approaches that make electronic textbooks available to all K‐12 students in the commonwealth of Virginia.

A Racial Impact Analysis of HB 994: Human Trafficking

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Staci Boone, City of Richmond
Traci DeShazor, Virginia Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Selonia Miles, U.S. Marine Corps
Katina Williams, St. Joseph's Villa

Human trafficking has become an international crisis that has caused a devastating impact on the commonwealth of Virginia. The purpose of this report is to examine the racial equity impact of Virginia House Bill 944. HB 994 was introduced to the House by Delegate Barbara Comstock, along with 13 other members of the House and was passed by the House of Delegates and was passed indefinitely in courts of justice with letter in 2014. This bill, as initially introduced, would have made it a felony to participate in human trafficking by expanding the definition of abduction/kidnapping. It also would have provided additional protection for minors by taking away the defense of consent. This report reviews the practices of human trafficking and provides an overview of how HB 944 being passed indefinitely harms minority communities.

A Racial Impact Analysis of HB 32: Minimum Wage Increase

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Gena Burr, GTT Enterprises Inc.
Danise Harmon, Virginia Commonwealth University
Uzziah Harris, City of Richmond
Tammy Martin, UPSide to Youth Development LLC

The racial equity impact of HB 32 is important because minorities in Virginia disproportionately work in minimum wage positions. The purpose of this report is to provide a racial impact analysis of House Bill (HB) 32, legislation proposed in the 2014 Virginia General Assembly to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour. According to 2013 data, 1.8 million workers in Virginia are paid hourly rates and 6.8 percent of these workers earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Examining fiscal years 2015 to 2020 for the commonwealth, such an increase would cost $2,712,696. This impact includes the costs to cover additional staff for enforcement of the bill. Moreover, based on data provided by the Department of Human Resource Management, such an increase would also affect 264 salaried employees, costing an additional $296,252. In sum, this report examines the various and differing components surrounding HB 32 and minimum wage from a comprehensive perspective. This report examines why HB 32 failed, analyzes minimum wage versus living wage, and discusses what steps can be taken to promote racial income equality. In addition, this report charts a path forward toward policy that can be implemented legislatively with a positive effect on Virginia’s communities.

A Racial Impact Analysis of HB 1075/SB 201

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Patrice Banks, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority
Cydny Neville, Dumfries Community Services
Sookyung Oh, Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis
Keith Rogers Jr., City of Richmond

The economic and social consequences of untreated (or undertreated) substance abuse among minors are significant. This report provides a racial impact analysis of HB 1075/SB 201, legislation approved in the 2012 General Assembly session that seeks to improve access and use of substance and alcohol services by minors. In short, this policy could go a long way to ensure that families are properly educated about these life-changing (and lifesaving) programs; however, our analysis raises concerns related to cultural competency that may serve to undermine the legislation’s goal. Virginia is incredibly diverse and its communities vary widely with its assets and risks. In this vein, we offer concrete recommendations to maximize the policy’s racial equity. Our analysis also sheds light on the ongoing challenge Virginia’s state agencies have had to address cultural competency within its services. Additional research is necessary to determine what service gaps may exist, which would increase or decrease the racial equity impact. By answering these questions, Virginia will be better prepared to further reduce alcohol and substance abuse by all minors. 

A Racial Impact Analysis of HB 462

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Daphne Bryan, Bon Secours Bermuda Crossroads Primary Care
Melissa Brown, City of Richmond
Tarvaris McCoy, Community Housing Partners Corporation 

The adoption of House Bill 462 into law brings forth questions about the probable impact on the physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being of the women in Virginia. In particular, analysis of its effect on the minority and underserved female population is required. Understanding the origin of this new legislation and the thinking behind its proposal and subsequent adoption dictates an endeavor into the backgrounds and intended goals of its sponsors and supporters. Proponents of HB 462 were unresponsive to requests for an interview to expound on their perspective about the importance of the legislation. This precipitated the use of media clips from televised political discussions and newspaper articles to acquire direct quotes in an effort to gain insight into their position. Legislation of morality emerged as the key them from the research materials assembled. This belief is shared by many who oppose the law. Opponents of HB 462 regard the law as contrary to the decision. If, in fact, this legislation is not intended to impose the morality of its sponsors on all Virginians, as the research suggests, it is probable that it will have a disparate impact on the minority and underserved segment of the population. 

A Racial Impact Analysis of HB 9

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Olutosin Burrell, D.C. Public Schools
Dawn Lawson, U.S. Department of the Army
Robert Mayfield, Tenaska
LaDonna Sanders, Department of Family Services

House Bill 9 was introduced by Delegate Mark L. Cole (R – House District 88 – Fredericksburg) as chief patron with support from co-patron Delegate Charles D. Poindexter (R – House District 9 – Glade Hill). The bill states that a voter who is unable to present one of the forms of ID may sign a sworn statement that they are the named registered voter they claim to be and then be allowed to vote a provisional ballot. The current law allows such a voter to cast an official ballot rather than a provisional one after signing such statement. We will attempt to show, through careful research, the adverse impact of the passage of this bill has across racial lines. Whether or not this factor was known at the time of proposal, its passage is sure to make the basic right and civic duty of voting a bit more difficult for a wide swath of the Virginia populace is disproportionately a part of the minority class. We intend to make the argument that current and future legislation in the commonwealth should take into account the impact it has on minority communities to make sure that they neither limit nor discourage participation in this democracy. 

A Racial Impact Analysis of HB 869/SB 274

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Ashley Chapman, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Ida Jones, City of Richmond
Donald Knight, Department of Defense

In an effort to curb sprawling development and decrease transportation expenditure, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 3202 in 2007. One major outcome of this multifaceted legislation was the introduction of mandatory Urban Development Areas (UDAs). The goal of UDAs was for localities to concentrate growth and development in order to reduce the cost of transportation and increase opportunities to build multi-use developments and expand affordable housing. In 2012, the General Assembly passed House Bill 869 and Senate Bill 274 which effectively make UDAs no longer mandatory but optional for all localities in the commonwealth. In this paper, we analyze the racial impact and explore the political history of HB 869/SB 274 while addressing the larger issue of sprawl across the commonwealth. Smart Growth policies are known to positively impact the environment but they also positively impact low-income and minority communities by increasing access to housing, transportation and ultimately jobs. The story behind Urban Development Areas in the commonwealth is one of politics and regulation but issues as critical as housing, transportation and job access should be focused much more on the citizens of the commonwealth. The friction created by the UDA policy between the localities and the state has the potential to spark a statewide conversation about land use and, more importantly, the need for people-centered solutions to a growing problem.