Legislative Priorities / Political Well Being
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July 31, 2014
The mission of the African-American Affairs Commission (AAAC) is to improve and promote the economic development, education, health and political well being of the African-American community in the State of Connecticut.
The AAAC accomplishes these goals through information sharing, promoting cultural awareness, community networking, and legislation. The AAAC is a semi-autonomous agency of the State of Connecticut, established in 1997 by action of the Legislature and by approval of the Governor. The Commission derives its authority from Public Act No. 97-11, Section 24 and, for purpose of administration, the agency reports to the Legislative Management Committee of the General Assembly.
The AAAC was created as a result of recommendations from the Connecticut African-American Male Task Force (CAAMTF). CAAMTF, established in 1993 by Public Act No. 93-411, was formed due to an increasing awareness of the socio-economic disadvantages faced by African-American males in the United States. As such, recommendations were made to empower Connecticut’s African-American community by attacking impediments to social and economic development.
The AAAC's specific charge is to:
Review and comment on any proposed state legislation and regulations that would affect the African-American population in the state;
Advise and provide information to the Governor on the state's policies concerning African-American Communities;
Advise the Governor concerning the coordination and administration of state programs serving the African-American population;
Maintain a liaison between African-American Communities and governmental entities;
Encourage African-American representation at all levels of state government, including state boards and commissions;
Secure appropriate recognition of the accomplishments and contributions of the African-American population of the state; and
Prepare and submit to the Governor an annual report concerning its activities with any appropriate recommendations concerning the African-American population in the state.
In response to the challenge of its mandates, the AAAC continues to be an advocate for Connecticut African-Americans by setting legislative priorities and working cooperatively with state commissions and agencies as well as local and national organizations for the benefit its constituency.
Examples of such programs and partnerships include:
Voting Rights Restoration
The AAAC participated as a member of the Coalition for Voting Rights Restoration. In Connecticut prior to passage of the Voting Rights Restoration Bill, convicted felons who had completed their prison sentences could not vote until the end of probation. Although they had completed their sentencing requirements, and had returned to society, more than 50,000 men and women statewide had been denied their right to vote. Voting Rights Restoration Legislation (House Bill 5042) was supported by a coalition of organizations committed to its passing. The AAAC submitted testimony at the Judiciary Committee hearings and emphasized positive effects of reinstating this basic constitutional right. The AAAC spoke to key legislators, submitted letters and contacted community organizations to gain support for the legislation. House Bill 5042 passed, and Governor John G. Rowland signed Public Act 01-11 into law on May 4, 2001.
The African-American Affairs Commission is a One Connecticut partner. This broad-based coalition of more than 60 state and community-based anti-hunger, anti-poverty and women’s advocacy organizations is committed to public action, advocacy and education that promote a better quality of life for all Connecticut residents. The coalition strives to ensure that the state’s policies and practices “leave no person behind, regardless of good or bad economic times.” Identified priorities for the group are: affordable housing, quality education, healthcare for all, good jobs and economic security, in addition to effective democracy.
The Communities of Interest for Fair Redistricting
As a result of population shifts, prompted by a decade of economic adversity, and sluggish resident growth, Connecticut lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in nearly 70 years. According to Census 2000 figures, Connecticut’s cities; Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, New Britain, and Waterbury suffered the largest population losses. At the same time population shifts to the surrounding suburbs increased.
The African-American Affairs Commission participated as a partner in an initiative to help the public understand the impact of Connecticut’s redrawing of the state’s legislative districts. The AAAC along with the Communities of Interest for Fair Redistricting Redistricting (Connecticut NAACP, DemocracyWorks, State of Connecticut Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, Latino Voting Rights Committee of Connecticut, and the Urban League) co-sponsored educational forums regarding the subject. The African-American Affairs Commission also drafted and forwarded communications advocating the inclusion of an African-American or a person of color to the Reapportionment Committee.
Advisory Commission on Multicultural Health
The African-American Affairs Commission participates as a member of the Connecticut Advisory Commission on Multicultural Health. The Multicultural Health Commission, in collaboration with the Statewide Multicultural Health Steering Committee works in partnership with five New England states to supply program process information, collect and share data derived from random samplings of target audience needs, in addition to project and program results. Work is also being done to create a model to address minority health leadership in Connecticut. Additionally, the African-American Affairs Commission supports the State of Connecticut Advisory Commission on Multicultural Health’s affiliation with the National Bone Marrow Program and its work to increase the availability of transplant options for multicultural populations.
Family Support Conference
The AAAC participated as a conference planner for the 2001 Family Support Conference held in Hartford, Connecticut. The AAAC presented two conference workshops: Economic Development Capacity Building, Venture Capital and Wealth Building, and Neighborhood Development, Family Support and Housing. The economic development capacity building seminar dealt with urban markets, and accessibility to data and financial capital, as essential components for revitalizing communities. The Family Support America Conference marked an initial step in connecting economic development, community development and social service initiatives into a holistic approach for economic renewal.
As part of our commitment to further improve our efficacy, the AAAC welcomes opportunities to discuss how changes to its current activities, or the formation of new partnerships, would better serve Connecticut’s African-American community. We look forward to beginning new conversations.