Affordable housing, the minimum wage and other issues not tied directly to fighting racial bias are moving onto the shopping list of civil rights forces as they gear up for the post-Reagan era on Capitol Hill.
"The traditional notion of what a civil rights bill is is sort of going through a change," says Jane O'Grady, a labor official and legislative chairwoman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.Issues that civil rights advocates group under the heading of economic justice, often dealing with labor and welfare, are prominent on the list.
Civil rights for the disabled, legal services for the poor and mandatory leave from work for parents of newborns and sick children are all priorities for the Leadership Conference, an umbrella group that takes in virtually the entire civil rights community.
The new emphasis represents not so much a change in direction as a return to issues that were largely ignored while civil rights forces skirmished with the Reagan administration throughout much of the 1980s.
Not all of the new priorities are economic. For example, civil rights advocates continue to press for easier voter registration and they are preparing to fight English-only legislation that would bar bilingual education programs for Hispanics.
"It is an aggressive and ambitious agenda," says Ralph Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference. "But we are confident that the 101st Congress will pass it. We hope that the Bush administration will play a constructive role."
As usual, civil rights advocates are watching carefully to see if President Bush will name federal judges inclined toward moderate positions or hard-line conservatives who might challenge the legal changes of the past three decades.