Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes Racial Preferences Bill

John Ellis

California’s Proposition 209 was the first state ballot initiative to prohibit consideration of race, sex, or ethnicity in public education or employment, and it is the progenitor of a growing number of comparable initiatives in other states. Since its passage in 1996 it has been challenged many times, always unsuccessfully.

The latest attempt to undermine 209 is the California Assembly’s AB 2047, which attempts to get around 209’s prohibitions by fraudulently suggesting 1) that the Supreme Court’s more permissive stance in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) supersedes 209—it does not, and 2) that race can be taken into account in a way that does not constitute an illegal preference—it can not. The CAS sent letters to the Assembly and the Senate rebutting both points. We argued that AB 2047 was a deceptive bill that would achieve nothing of substance, but might well encourage law-breaking and clog the courts with pointless lawsuits. Nonetheless, both houses passed the bill. We wrote to urge the Governor to veto the bill repeating the arguments we had made previously. This time Governor Schwarzenegger sided with us and vetoed the bill on October 1.  He explained his decision in a message to the legislature:

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 2047 without my signature.

The goal of advancing a more diverse student population at the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems, while maintaining high academic standards is an admirable one. However, this bill attempts to change the constitutional ban on considering race, gender, ethnicity, or national origin as a factor in admissions that the people of California supported when they passed Proposition 209 in 1996.

The UC and CSU systems are aware of and supportive of the important goal of student diversity and make every attempt through its comprehensive review admissions process. That process considers many of the factors contained in this legislation, but do so within current constitutional restrictions. The intent of this bill would be more appropriately addressed through a constitutional change of those current restrictions.

For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

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