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Republican lawmaker under fire for calling out 'colored' people

A hearing for a measure on racial disproportionality turned into a debate following the comments made by Republican state Sen. Jim Honeyford.
Prison fence at a Correctional Facility.
Prison fence at a Correctional Facility.

A Republican state senator in Washington said at a recent committee hearing that he believes "colored" people are "more likely to commit crimes."

Legislators last week discussed a proposal that would require the state to carry out racial-impact statements, which determine whether a measure affects all groups equally or whether it has the potential to benefit or harm some individuals more than others. Lawmakers in Oregon, for example, have argued that such statements help them evaluate the effects proposed bills could have on minorities and address racial disparities.

"I said the poor are more likely to commit crimes and colored most likely to be poor. I didn't say anything else other that. And I believe that's an accepted fact."'

The hearing briefly turned into a debate between Republican state Sen. Jim Honeyford and Democratic state Sen. Bob Hasegawa.

"It's generally accepted that the poor are more likely to commit crimes. And generally, I think accepted that people of color are more likely poor than not," Honeyford said last Thursday in front of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, according to footage from the public hearing.

In an email to msnbc on Wednesday, Honeyford wrote: "My question to the Forecast Council was 'people of color re (sic) generally poor. The poor are more likely to commit crimes.' Later when I repeated the statement I mistakenly omitted 'people of.'"

RELATED: Black Caucus seeks apology for GOP lawmaker's comment in Tennessee

Meanwhile, Hasegawa pushed back on Honeyford's comment, saying it's probably true that there are more people of color in jails or facing prosecutions. "But these types of analysis will help us get to the root of what is actually causing that kind of disparate treatment," Hasegawa said. "Often times in the neighborhood, when you're cruising around the hood, you're guilty of the crime of driving while brown."

Honeyford responded: "I want to correct what I said. I said the poor are more likely to commit crimes and colored most likely to be poor. I didn't say anything else other that. And I believe that's an accepted fact. If you check any of your sociology books or anything else, you'll find that's an accepted fact of our society."

Hasegawa gave an example to his colleagues that different kinds of cocaine might be cheaper and more available in "poor communities"; whereas, powder cocaine often is a high-end commodity. The prosecutions under rock cocaine, he said, are much more highly enforced than those on powder cocaine.

"That type of disparity kind of happens out there, not because anybody's thinking about it, it just happens," Hasegawa said. The racial-impact statements bill, he added, would be for legislators to have an informed decision before they vote and realize there might be possible consequences with a proposed measure.

The state's Senate Rules Committee currently is considering the bill.