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Bill to repeal Affirmative Action ban passes out of Senate committee

OLYMPIA — Senate Bill 6406 passed out of the Senate’s State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee today. If enacted, SB 6406 would end Washington’s affirmative action prohibition, a law that has been in place since 1998.

Bill co-sponsor Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, said repealing the ban would help undo the racial stratification created by “color-blind” approaches to diversity.

“Our society benefits the most when people of all races and ethnicities are in community together,” said Hasegawa. “Racial discrimination did not end in 1998. The implementation of I-200 has severely set back communities of color. You cannot aspire for racial equality and not examine the historical wrongs people of color have faced. Righting those wrongs take time; we still have work to do.”

In 1998, Washington voters approved Initiative 200, which prohibited the consideration of affirmative factors. The initiative proposed to prevent discrimination in college admission based on race but has blocked the state’s higher education system and agencies from making progress with regards to diversity.

Washington is one of eight states that prohibit affirmative action — the others are California, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida and New Hampshire.

“This initiative passed when I was a college student. I was very concerned about how this would affect education and economic opportunities for people of color,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldana, D-Seattle. “And 20 years later, we see that state contracting with people of color businesses went from 20 percent to 3 percent, and our institutions and businesses have seen firsthand how detrimental I-200 has been to closing the opportunity gap. It is time to repeal I-200.”

The bill would strike references in state law to I-200.