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Proposed law makes way for statewide MBE program
Published on 02/05/2018

An act to repeal the effects of Initiative 200, which Washington voters passed in 1998, and which banned the use of affirmative action, including the ability of state agencies to give preferential treatment to minority-owned businesses (MBEs) in state contracting, is currently being considered in the Washington State legislature.

While some treat the measure, SB 6406, as an unwelcome development, others are speaking in favor of the bill, saying that the existing ban on preferential treatment has hurt the cause of equity in developing the regional economy.

Advocates for the bill, according to a staff summary of public testimony on SB 6406, believe that Initiative 200 has not lived up to its stated intent of creating equality and fairness in the process of competing in the economic life of the state. Studies quoted by proponents of the bill indicate that while total spending on government contracting for minority contractors was 13.3 percent in 1998, by 2004 it had dropped to 1.66 percent. In addition, advocates stated that projects involving federal spending in Washington (which is exempt from I-200) had a utilization rate of 92 percent of available disadvantaged businesses, compared to 32 percent utilization on projects not having similar mandatory federal goals, and argued that this showed a clear pattern of discrimination under the rules of I-200.

To read the full text of SB 6406, visit http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=6406&Year=2017

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