Crown Act supporters raise money after Tarr fiscal concern comments

Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following the death of the CROWN Act – SB 496 – on Wednesday, advocacy groups on Thursday presented a check for $5,500 to Black women-led West Virginia organizations Thursday in front of State Sen. Eric Tarr’s office.

The groups said in a press release that they raised the funds online in just under 48 hours.

The act narrowly passed out of Senate Judiciary last Thursday, only to be sent to Senate Finance last Friday. It was intended to prohibit discrimination based on race – under the state Human Rights Act – that includes discrimination based on hair textures and protective hairstyles historically associated with a particular race, where the term protective hairstyles includes braids, locks, and twists.

Tarr, R-Putnam, successfully moved to have the bill referred to his committee saying it carries significant fiscal implications, where it died without further action by the Crossover Day deadline.

Two of the bill’s three fiscal notes, he said, came back with “pretty extraordinary expenses associated with them. … We’re controlling expenses very tightly and this one would be a very large, one and there’s much smaller fiscal notes that haven’t made it through.”

The advocacy groups based their check on the fiscal note from the attorney general’s office. The note said any changes to law that result in more litigation where the AG’s Civil Rights Division represents the Human Rights Commission will add some costs to state government.

“This is an unavoidable consequence of any changes in law that require education and may result in litigation. As such, costs estimates cannot be considered zero. However, given the lack of any relevant data on this at present, it is unclear whether any litigation will actually arise from this bill and, more particularly, whether the attorney general’s office will bear measurable increases as a result.”

The note estimated an initial cost of $10,000 to implement with subsequent annual costs of $5,000.

At the check presentation, the Rev. Jenny Williams, a faith organizer who helped spearhead the fundraiser, said, “This is such needed legislation, so we’ve been puzzled as to why Senator Tarr is blocking it. If you want to help and protect people, you make it happen. Five thousand dollars is nothing in the scope of the state budget. We decided to show how easy it is to raise this money when you care about Black and brown people.”

The groups said the funds will be equally distributed among Black By God (the West Virginian), WV Black Pride Foundation, Black Voter Impact Initiative, and the Partnership for Furthering Arts and Education.

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