CA Assembly members propose amendment to allow affirmative action

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A state constitutional amendment that would repeal Proposition 209, California’s ban on affirmative action, was proposed in a state Assembly meeting March 9.

Prop. 209, which was approved in 1996, bans state public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex or ethnicity. This effectively disallows affirmative action — policies favoring groups that have historically suffered from discrimination. The amendment, ACA 5, which was primarily authored by Assemblymembers Shirley Weber and Mike Gipson, would allow for race and gender to be considered in hiring and college admissions. If successful, the amendment would eventually appear on the ballot for the consideration of California voters.

“Proposition 209 has cost women- and minority-owned businesses $1.1 billion each year,” Weber said in a press release. “It has perpetuated a wage gap wherein women make 80 cents on every dollar made by men and has allowed discriminatory hiring and contracting processes to continue unhindered.”

According to the amendment’s text, the repeal of Prop. 209 aims to “transcend a legacy of unequal treatment of marginalized groups” and give members of marginalized groups equal opportunities for upward mobility and pay equity.

Multiple previous attempts to reinstitute affirmative action in California have failed. In 2011, a state Senate bill that would have allowed for affirmative action passed both legislative houses but was vetoed by then-California governor Jerry Brown.

A proposed constitutional amendment in 2014, which would have similarly repealed Prop. 209, failed in the legislature.

“Prop. 209 has directly resulted in disproportionately low representation of Black, Latinx, Native, and underrepresented API people within our student body,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar in an email. “It has been, quite frankly, a catastrophe for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Repealing it – and implementing affirmative action policies – is imperative if our student body is to reflect California’s population and mitigate our severe campus climate issues.”

Natalie Gott contributed to this report.

Alexandra Feldman is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.