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MTC, ABAG Vote to Support Affirmative Action Amendment

State Voters to Decide Proposition 16 in November

MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments’ Executive Board both voted this month to support Proposition 16 on the November 2020 ballot. If approved by California voters, Proposition 16 would amend the state constitution to repeal a 24-year-old ban on the use of affirmative action and allow the state government, city and county governments, public universities and other public agencies to develop programs and policies that directly aim to increase opportunities for women and people of color.

Referred to the voters by the state Legislature’s approval earlier this year of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber of San Diego, Proposition 16 would repeal Proposition 209, which was approved by California voters in 1996. This would permit the state’s public agencies — within the bounds of federal law — to implement affirmative action programs that explicitly use race and gender as factors in college admissions, government hiring and public contracting. Case law from the U.S. Supreme Court would guide which specific policies and programs would be permissible. The Supreme Court has ruled that strict racial quotas and point systems in higher education admissions are unconstitutional but that individualized, holistic reviews that consider race, when tailored to serve a compelling public interest such as educational diversity, are permissible. Voters’ approval of Proposition 16 would allow the use of race and/or gender as a “plus” factor but would not permit the use of quotas or policies that do not consider the totality of the individual college applicant, job applicant, or contract bidder.

MTC and the ABAG both identified Proposition 16 as consistent with the Equity Platform adopted by the agencies last year to advance their shared goal of fostering a just and inclusive Bay Area where everyone can participate, prosper and reach their full potential; as a tool that can be used by all public agencies to help create a more diverse workforce and contracting pool; and as a means to develop a more diverse student body for California’s public colleges and universities.

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