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Dear Colleagues:

It is my honor and privilege to greet you as the 12th President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL).  For more than 40 years, our organization has been fighting to create an environment that encouraged fairness and equality for African Americans and other people of color.

The current shifting political climate and the rollbacks in civil rights and progress that it fosters—from judicially challenged Muslim Bans, to ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), to continuous failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), to reversing even the minor gains in policing reform—means that now more than ever, we must fight to safeguard the rights and protections of our communities.

This administration has made its priorities clear: benefit the most comfortable Americans and in many cases, further burden and target the most vulnerable. So, we too, at NBCSL shall make ours clear: to have a government that works for us all.

As President, I am fully committed and honored to work alongside legislators who have fought tirelessly to advance policies critical to the wellbeing of African Americans and other marginalized groups. The following Five Pillars of Action encapsulate the legislative priorities I seek to lead NBCSL in addressing during my tenure and beyond:

2017 NBCSL Five Pillars of Action

Education


As the cornerstone of equality, providing quality educational opportunities to children of color ensures that they can be competitive in a global market as well as industrious individuals in society.  NBCSL seeks to address education in the United States through the following:

  • Equal and sustained funding to HBCUs and land grant universities
  • Fully funding universal early education and early education program
  • Supporting teacher accountability standards that improve education for children
  • Increased recruitment of teachers of color
  • Loan forgiveness programs with full funding of Pell grants and reduced interest rates on student loans
  • Eliminating zero-tolerance and punitive school practices that contribute to the school to prison pipeline

Economic and Wealth Development


Economic and wealth development is critical in creating equity for Black communities.  The economic disparities that exist in the United States impact not only generational wealth but create barriers to health and education, contribute to the challenges of public safety, and widen socioeconomic classes.  NBCSL seeks to address economic and wealth development through the following:

  • Increasing access to capital for minority small business and encouraging greater entrepreneurship opportunities
  • Improving financial literacy and wealth management in communities of color
  • Fair labor standards and practices that protect worker rights and support livable wages
  • Equitable home buying practices and an end to abusive and predatory practices

Health


African-Americans and other communities of color face extreme health challenges, including disproportionate rates of chronic disease, high levels of infant mortality, lack of health care coverage and the inability to pay high drug costs.  NBCSL seeks to address health through the following:

  • Safeguarding health care coverage to all Americans despite income or location
  • Protecting Medicare Part D coverage for seniors
  • Keeping access to vital prescription medications by make sure drug costs stay affordable
  • Expanding health equity for communities of color, including increasing participation in clinical drug trials and medical studies with an emphasis on cultural competence
  • Reducing chronic disease through early screenings and testing

Infrastructure Investment and Improvement


Crumbling and outdated Infrastructure is routinely an issue in the states, and generally negatively impacts low-income communities and communities of color.  Policies that lead to the development of Smart Cities, more choices on how to get around, and close the digital divide will be integral in modernizing these communities.  NBCSL seeks to address infrastructure through the following:

  • Working with local government to create supportive structures that improve broadband access and greater access to 5G
  • Improving transportation systems and expanding transportation options
  • Addressing environmental justice in low-income and communities of color by ensuring energy policies are affordable, fair and treat all consumers equally, and encouraging more renewable energy resources.
  • Engaging minority businesses in renewable energy development

Redistricting and the 2020 Census


Redistricting and the U.S. 2020 Census must represent the electorate in addition to the needs of the electorate.  Racially-biased redistricting practices that have resulted in a reduction of representatives of color have been litigated in courts throughout the states. Committees and commissions on redistricting will focus on ways to draw representative lines that do not dilute voter strength.  Full participation in the Census is one method to guarantee representation.  NBCSL seeks to address redistricting through the following:

  • Ensuring fair access to the ballot and securing representation
  • Ending suppressive voter tactics, including opposing restrictive voter ID laws and restoring voting rights to returning citizens
  • Blocking gerrymandering practices

I look forward to working with all of you in setting an on-going agenda to address these critical issues. I am particularly excited to welcome and work with our newly elected legislators.

Legislating is tough work and after 25 years in the Indiana State Legislature, I know there is often little time for new members to adjust to their new responsibilities. From constituent relations and managing a legislative office to how to effectively communicate with the media and the importance of maintaining civility and decorum in the legislative process, NBCSL knows the challenges of being African-American legislators, advocating for the concerns of people of color while simultaneously representing mainstream and other unique constituencies. As part of your membership in NBCSL, you will meet members who have been in the trenches and bring their distinctive insights and practical experience, as well as have access to professional development, peer networking, and other valuable resources to help along your legislative journey.

For those returning, we welcome you back and call on you to lend your expertise and experience.  Together, we are facing a new legislative playing field, and it is up to us to ensure that we remain a strong, influential and cohesive voice in state and national conversations.   

I am truly blessed to have been chosen to lead this incredible organization and look forward to working hard for you and all our constituents.

Sincerely,

Gregory W. Porter (IN)
President, National Black Caucus of State Legislators
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