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Washington legislature repeals ban on affirmative action

WA News - Published May 02, 2019

The Washington State legislature recently passed Initiative 1000, which repeals Initiative 200, passed in 1998, that banned affirmative action statewide.

The new initiative was referred to the legislature after collecting mor ethan 395,000 signatures. Under Washington law, initiatives can be referred to the legislature, where they are referred back to the people in the form of a ballot question if the legislature fails or refuses to act.

The initiative adds provisions to the law permitting the state to remedy "discrimination against, or underrepresentation of, disadvantaged groups as documented in a valid disparity study or proven in a court of law." The initiative further allows for affirmative action policies such as participation goals, so long as said goals do not use quotas or "preferential treatment", which is defined for purposes of the initiative as using one of the enumerated identities in the law as the "sole qualifying factor" for selecting a given candidate for public contracting (or public education or public employment). There is a statement of intent included in the initiative which describes the legislation as attempting to provide equity and prevent discrimination without respect to "race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or honorably discharged veteran or military status."

The Office of Women and Minority Business Enterprises has stated that since the enactment of Initiative 200 in 1998, the percentage of state procurement dollars going to minority- and woman-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) dropped from 10 percent in the five years before Initiative 200, to between 1 and 3 percent afterwards. Supporters of I-1000 cite this figure as indicating that relegalizing affirmative action would remedy discrimination in public contracting. Opponents of the initiative, however, have already filed a referendum with the Secretary of State which, if brought before voters and successfully passed, would repeal Initiative 1000. The group filing the referendum (American Coalition for Equality) will need 129,811 signatures before the deadline of July 27th, 2019 in order to put the referendum on the ballot.

To read Initiative 1000 in full, visit https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1000&Initiative=true