On Wednesday, the California Senate voted 30-10 in favor of a constitutional amendment to reinstate affirmative action, bringing the final decision to voters in November.
ACA 5 to be on ballot this fall
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), would reverse the 1996 Prop 209 decision that banned preferential treatment on basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. If passed, state colleges and organizations would include race as a factor in acceptance and hiring decisions. The last challenge to Prop 209 came in 2014 when a similar ballot decision failed due to a campaign by Asian-Americans and other supporters who marked affirmative action as discrimination as it went against decisions based solely on merit.
Supporters of the amendment argued that race is factor in how many people of color have not had the same opportunities as others through a system historically designed to put roadblocks in their way.
“I know about discrimination. I live it every day,” said Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). “We live it in this building. Quit lying to yourselves and saying race is not a factor. The bedrock of who we are in this country is based on race.”
ACA 5 co-author Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) also the racial basis of the bill while celebrating its passage.
“30-10!!!!,” exclaimed Gonzalez on Twitter. “I’m crying. We did it! Voters in California will have the chance to correct our mistakes of the past and restore affirmative action in public contracting and education! I’m so proud to be a co-author of ACA5!”
I’m crying. We did it! Voters in California will have the chance to correct our mistakes of the past and restore affirmative action in public contracting and education! I’m so proud to be a co-author of ACA5!
— Lorena (@LorenaSGonzalez) June 24, 2020
Opposition grows against ACA 5 in California
Opponents derided the passage, noting that affirmative action discounts merit in hiring and acceptance decisions and unfairly disadvantages Asian-American and white students who may have had better grades or experience.
“This bill is rescinding very simple but powerful language from our Constitution that makes it illegal to discriminate against someone for ethnicity or race in the course of public employment,” noted Senator Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar). “The answer to discrimination is not more discrimination.”
Vice Chairman of the California Republican Party Peter Kuo also noted opposition to the bill recently.
“I’m Peter Kuo, an immigrant, a father of three bright students, a proud Californian and a proud Republican, Vice Chair of the CAGOP, and I am strongly opposed to ACA5,” tweeted Kuo. “Admission to all public colleges and universities should be based solely on MERIT.”
I'm Peter Kuo, an immigrant, a father of three bright students, a proud Californian and a proud Republican, Vice Chair of the @CAGOP and I am strongly opposed to #ACA5. Admission to all public colleges and universities should be based solely on MERIT. pic.twitter.com/F6GuAAtIMo
— Peter Kuo (@peterkuoGOP) June 17, 2020
ACA 5 has seen a growing opposition since the bill was boosted by Assemblywoman Weber in March, despite many supporters joining following the George Floyd protests. Assembly committee and Assembly votes were combative, with the Senate vote Wednesday coming only a few votes ahead of the 2/3rd majority required to pass.
“The growing sympathy following George Floyd might give ACA 5 the push it needs to pass this November,” said pollster Charles Sax. “But many groups, especially Asian-Americans, are already leading the charge against it because they’re afraid of quotas. Many whites and even some Hispanics too. It’s much like 2014, which kept the ban in place very narrowly.”
“It’s going to be a nail-biter again. A lot can happen between now and November.”
ACA 5 will be on the ballot in the November 3rd general election.