Strong momentum is growing for legislation asking voters to decide whether the state government can again address discrimination against women and people of color in contracting, public employment, and education, announced the Opportunity for All Coalition through its co-chairs, Eva Paterson of the Equal Justice Society, and Vincent Pan of Chinese for Affirmative Action.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment No. 5 (ACA 5) would put on the November ballot a question to repeal Proposition 209, enacted in 1996 as part of Republican strategy to use race as a wedge issue.
If ACA 5 is passed, voters would have a say on affirmative action for the first time in a generation. California would join the 42 states in the U.S. with programs addressing structural discrimination hurting women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.
Californians need every tool possible to recover from the coronavirus crisis, but pandemic assistance programs are not helping everyone equally. Nearly 90 percent of businesses owned by women and people of color have been shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program. The pandemic has worsened the already difficult struggles of small businesses.
ACA 5 passed its first committee on May 5 on a 6-1 bipartisan vote. The Assembly Appropriations Committee will consider the bill in June.
The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board endorsed ACA 5, writing that Proposition 209 “was wrong in 1996 … and it is wrong now. It should be repealed.”
The bill is endorsed by U.S. Representatives Karen Bass and Ro Khanna, State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
Other endorsements include Alicia Garza, Angela Glover Blackwell, Aimee Allison, Helen Zia, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, ACLU of California, Bar Association of San Francisco, NAACP California/Hawaii, Community College League of California, AFSCME Local 3299, National Association of Women Business Owners, Anti-Defamation League, and the Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley.
Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber of San Diego introduced the bill in March with Assemblymembers Mike A. Gipson, Lorena Gonzalez, Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., Sydney Kamlager, and Senator Holly Mitchell.
“Since becoming law in 1996, Proposition 209 has cost businesses owned by women and people of color $1.1 billion each year and has allowed discriminatory hiring and contracting processes to continue unhindered,” said Assemblymember Weber.
The Opportunity for All Coalition (opportunity4all.org) is leading the statewide effort to pass ACA 5. The coalition’s steering committee, which is led by co-chairs Eva Paterson and Vincent Pan and includes Quinn Delaney, Paul Guerrero, Lisa Holder, Parshan Khosravi, Salih Muhammad, Schenae Rourk, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Julie M. Waters, Assemblymember Weber, Joey Williams, BOE Member Cohen, Walter Wilson, and Andy Wong.