After prime Democrats and neighborhood leaders referred to as for the firing of the state’s variety chief final spring over his “DEI is lifeless” feedback, the General Assembly included language in its funds to redirect funding from the Office of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion to a mortgage program to assist licensed hashish sellers until “fairness” is put again into the state’s variety workplace title by this summer time. 

This article was reprinted with permission from Virginia Mercury

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin delivers his State of the Commonwealth handle earlier than a joint session of the Virginia General Assembly, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, on the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)(AP/Steve Helber)

After prime Democrats and neighborhood leaders referred to as for the firing of the state’s variety chief final spring over his “DEI is lifeless” feedback, the General Assembly included language in its budget to redirect funding from the Office of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion to a loan program to help licensed cannabis sellers until “fairness” is put again into the state’s variety workplace title by this summer time.

In January 2022, Gov. Glenn Youngkin renamed the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by means of an government order by changing “fairness” with “alternative,” opposite to the state code. The transfer was met with swift pushback from Democratic leaders.

“The regulation is variety, fairness and inclusion,” Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, mentioned in an interview on the finish of this yr’s session. The governor’s press workplace didn’t reply to the Mercury’s request for remark earlier this week.

The governor launched his funds proposal in December, which appropriated an estimated $2.6 million in funding over the subsequent two years for the Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion, consolidated into the final fund for the governor’s workplace. If the governor as an alternative accepts the General Assembly’s proposal, a funds modification carried by Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, by July 1, $3.6 million over the subsequent two years will likely be appropriated to the workplace and its title could be restored to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

If the governor fails to take action, the funds authorised by the General Assembly would redirect the funds to the Virginia Cannabis Equity Business Loan Fund.

According to state law, the fund will present no- and low-interest loans to certified, licensed  hashish enterprise house owners to assist promote enterprise possession and financial development in communities that had been disproportionately impacted by hashish when it was prohibited within the state. Lawmakers have signaled that such a fund is required and will likely be put to good use.

“We will use the cash. There’s no query about that,” Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who serves because the chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and a prime funds negotiator, mentioned.

Janice Underwood, who served as director of variety initiatives at Old Dominion University, was appointed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam in September 2019 because the state’s first director of variety, fairness and inclusion. It was the primary place of its sort within the nation on the time.

Janice Underwood, former director of variety initiatives at Old Dominion University, served as Virginia’s first-ever director of variety, fairness and inclusion. (Office of the Governor)

In 2020, lawmakers handed legislation to codify into regulation the range, fairness and inclusion director place within the governor’s cupboard. According to that state regulation, the DEI director is answerable for creating a plan to advertise inclusive practices throughout state authorities and to handle systemic inequities in state authorities practices. The director should additionally implement suggestions from state workers and different teams into fairness coverage.

The place was a part of the governor’s responses to racial inequity in Virginia, thrown into stark aid by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. It was additionally associated to the state’s commemoration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the primary enslaved Africans coming to Virginia. The new place got here months after an issue prompted by a photograph that surfaced from Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook depicting somebody in blackface and one other in Ku Klux Klan robes.

Since the place’s institution, three individuals have been appointed because the chief variety officer.

Following Underwood, Gov. Youngkin in January 2022 appointed Angela Sailor to the function and altered the workplace title to Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion through the first month of his tenure. Sailor beforehand served as an government on the Heritage Foundation, a conservative assume tank.

Martin Brown, who served as commissioner of the Department of Social Services, succeeded Sailor in November 2022, appointed by Youngkin.

Virginia Chief of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion Officer Martin Brown. (Courtesy Photo of The Commonwealth of Virginia)

Some of Brown’s notable actions embody supporting laws to permit the placement of historic signs recognized within the Green Book, and championing controversial adjustments to the state’s history standards adopted by the Board of Education.

Perhaps most notably, Brown confronted widespread criticism for his remarks throughout a speech on the Virginia Military Institute in April.

“Let’s take a second proper now to kill that cow. DEI is lifeless,” Brown mentioned. “We’re not going to deliver that cow up anymore. It’s lifeless. It was mandated by the General Assembly, however this governor has a unique philosophy of civil discourse, civility … dwelling the golden rule, proper?”

Last yr, Democrats questioned whether or not the governor was following the regulation when he modified the identify of the place.

In a letter despatched to Attorney General Jason Miayres, Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, and Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, wrote, “The official state web site for this workplace likewise makes use of an incorrect identify and refers to Mr. Brown because the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Chief Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Officer,” noting that the DEI title mandated by the state didn’t seem on the official state web site.

Miyares responded that, if the governor makes certain the state’s legal guidelines referring to the DEI workplace are “‘faithfully executed,’ he could embody inside his cupboard a Chief Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion Officer who’s charged with performing duties supplemental to these of the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

The legal professional normal additionally identified in his response that “fairness” is just not outlined within the statute.

“With no statutory or judicially imposed definition, the governor, in fulfilling his responsibility to ‘faithfully execute’ the statute, is afforded a point of discretion in affording its phrases a workable which means,” Miyares wrote.

The governor, who’s assembly with funds leaders, has the facility to signal, amend or veto the DEI measures within the funds earlier than lawmakers return to Richmond on April 17.

Editor’s notice: This story was up to date to replicate that Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, carried the funds modification to revive the state’s director of variety, fairness and inclusion title.