For Joe Armstrong, the president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the next few days will be filled with discussions about voting rights, the struggle of historically Black colleges and the Affordable Care Act.
The group of elected officials from a wide array of states is convening in Memphis and, according to Armstrong, they are deeply concerned about legislation in some states that they say are designed to erode gains made by African-Americans.
“We have members who are deeply concerned about some state actions, like in Tennessee and Indiana, that have instituted photo identification voter laws,” Armstrong said, in an interview with BET.com.
“We feel that nowhere have states have been able to substantiate any cases of voter fraud at the booth,” added Armstrong, who is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. “We know that there are groups out there trying to discourage working class and minority people from voting. Our members are deeply concerned about that.”
The organization is made up of more than 600 African-American members of state legislators from 42 states and Washington, D.C. It monitors federal and state activity, especially with regard to issues that affect African-American citizens. The Caucus also conducts training programs for its members, looking at significant public policy issues.
Armstrong said that there has been a great effort on the part of the legislators to find ways of increasing public funding for historically Black colleges and universities.
“Many of our members come from states where there are HBCUs,” Armstrong said. “These institutions have been under attack and underfunded for the last 20 years or more. We and our members are trying to make sure that the states are doing what they are supposed to do, in terms of assisting these institutions.”
He said another issue of concern to members of the legislative caucus is the Affordable Care Act and coming up with strategies to ensure that various states cooperate with the terms of the health care law.
“The state of Tennessee, my own state, will be losing out on $1.2 billion in federal dollars because of their disposition regarding the health care legislation. Our members don’t want to see that pattern continue.”
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(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)