Public Policy Update - July 2023
Philanthropy Southeast regularly provides members with updates on the latest public policy developments in Washington and state capitols around the region, analyzing their possible impact on the charitable sector. If you would like to see an issue featured in a future Public Policy Update, contact Jaci Bertrand, Philanthropy Southeast's vice president of member engagement, at email@example.com.
Alabama Legislature Refuses to Create New Black-Majority District, Defying SCOTUS
In early June, a 5-4 Supreme Court majority ruled that Alabama lawmakers violated the Voting Rights Act by passing a congressional district map that included only one Black-majority district out of seven in a state where more than 25 percent of residents are Black.
However, when lawmakers convened this month to draft a new map, the plan passed into law still only included one Black-majority district. Republicans hold both governor’s office in Alabama and supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature.
“If you think about where we were, the Supreme Court ruling was 5-4, so there’s just one judge that needed to see something different. And I think the movement that we have and what we’ve come to compromise on today gives us a good shot,” House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said, according to the Associated Press.
In 2022, a three-judge panel issued a ruling, upheld by the Supreme Court, calling on the state to create a map with two districts where “Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority” or something close.
The map passed by the Legislature will have to be approved by a federal court, which will hold a hearing on it next month.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case, Allen v. Milligan, is likely to result in challenges to congressional maps in other Southeastern states, including Louisiana and Georgia.
Foundations Reaffirm Commitments to Equity Following Affirmative Action Decision
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in June that effectively ended race-conscious admissions programs at colleges and universities, numerous foundations, including Philanthropy Southeast members, reaffirmed their commitments to equity and inclusion.
“While angered and dismayed by this decision, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation remains steadfast in our pursuit of true racial equity and the fullest expression of democracy possible,” Flozell Daniels, Jr., CEO of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, wrote. “Our grantee and philanthropic partners across 11 Southern states are working to build the kind of power that can forestall this tide of regressive manifestations of a white supremacist patriarchy.”
Raymond Pierce, president of the Southern Education Foundation, said the ruling “could have serious consequences for higher education, particularly in the South.”
“The Supreme Court’s harmful decision must be met with a renewed national resolve and political will for improving college access for student populations with a history of suppression and denial, consistent with the rule of law,” he said.
In a statement, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, emphasized that the ruling “does not require foundations, non-profits, or organizations to adjust, reduce or stop any efforts to advance racial equity, address racial disparities, affirm identities, or ensure diversity and inclusion.”
“We know that race continues to impact every indicator of wellbeing, so we will continue to hold the line on pushing for equity and justice in this country,” said Susan Taylor Batten, president and CEO of ABFE. “My hope is that your commitment to equity and justice for all people remains unwavering, especially during this season.”
Kansas Passes Donor Intent Legislation
In April, the Kansas state legislature passed the Donor Intent Protection Act, which was signed by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly later the same month and went into effect July 1.
The bill, passed by large bipartisan majorities in both the state House and Senate, is designed to make it easier for donors to enforce written endowment agreements.
Specifically, the law allows donors to sue to enforce the terms of gifts given to universities and other entities. The gift must have been accompanied by a written endowment agreement with specific donor restrictions and any challenge must be made within 40 years of the agreement. The law does not allow the donor to collect damages or reclaim donated funds, but requires them to be used for their original stated purpose.
Philanthropy Southeast will update members if similar laws are proposed in other states, particularly those within the region.