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Fri Apr 19, 2019, 01:19 PM

Washington lawmakers weigh reversing ban on affirmative action

An initiative that would bring affirmative action back to Washington state arrived at the Legislature Thursday, where supporters and critics alike invoked American ideals including opportunity and equality during a lengthy public hearing.

The initiative, I-1000, would allow the state to use hiring and recruitment goals but not quotas to bring minority candidates into state jobs, education, and contracting, loosening restrictions enacted in a separate 1998 initiative that banned government discrimination or preferential treatment based on factors like race or gender.

Along with race and gender or sex, the measure would allow consideration of disability, ethnicity, national origin, age, and honorably discharged veteran status, provided other qualifications were considered. Using any of the factors as the sole qualifying reason for an otherwise less-qualified applicant is defined as preferential treatment under the measure, and would be prohibited. A commission including the lieutenant governor and state attorney general would oversee implementation of the rules.

But that exposed deep divides, with advocates characterizing the under-representation of minorities in jobs and schools as the ripple effect of historic discrimination, even as opponents charged that explicit inclusion goals for individual groups would amount to an unfair exclusion of others.


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