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Affirmative action ban prop on California ballot
Published on 09/10/2020

The election taking place on November 3rd, 2020, will bring an array of choices before California voters, and one of those choices of particular potential interest to minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) and other firms taking part in public contracting is Proposition 16, also known as the Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment. The Proposition has been brought before the public as a result of the state legislature voting to bring it before the electorate.

In short, a vote of "YES" on Proposition 16 would be a vote to repeal California State Proposition 209, which was passed in 1996, and which stated that "government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting." In other words, a "YES" vote would be a vote in favor of repealing the currently-in-force ban on affirmative action in the state of California. 

If Proposition 16 succeeds, the State of California would subsequently be free to craft programs granting affirmative preferences to contractors in public procurement based on the race, sex, color, ethnicity, and/or national origin of the business owner. This would, in practice, likely mean the return of M/WBE participation goals on state-funded contracts - similar to the disabled veteran (DVBE) and disadvantaged business (DBE) goals currently found on many contracts bid across the state.

The bill to put Proposition 16 before the voters was introduced in 2020 by Asm. Shirley Weber (D-79). Supporters of a "yes" vote on the Proposition include U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris (who is also currently the Democratic candidate for Vice President), California Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, Dolores Huerta, the SEIU California State Council, the ACLU of California, the California NAACP State Conference, and numerous others.

"Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 [the amendment that would take place with a vote of Yes on Proposition 16] will help improve all of our daily lives by repealing Proposition 209 and eliminating discrimination in state contracts, hiring and education," Asm. Weber said in a statement.

For more information on Proposition 16, visit https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_16,_Repeal_Proposition_209_Affirmative_Action_Amendment_(2020).

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