House Panel Puts off Decision on Affirmative Action: Cities Face Options on Their Own Programs

By Dimas, Jose | Nation's Cities Weekly, November 10, 1997 | Go to article overview

House Panel Puts off Decision on Affirmative Action: Cities Face Options on Their Own Programs


Dimas, Jose, Nation's Cities Weekly


A House Committee tabled a measure that would end all federal affirmative action programs, an action that shifts decisions on the issue to the Supreme Court, states and localities. This House action may be representative of a lack of national consensus evidenced by conflicting directions taken by the Supreme Court in upholding a ruling in favor of California's ban on preferences and Houston's voters rejecting a similar proposal which would have dismantled its local affirmative action practices. With no clear direction, municipalities have a variety of options to choose when deciding on their own particular race and sex-based programs.

In a packed Judiciary Committee hearing room, Congressman George Gekas (R-Pa.) made the motion to table the legislation. "The concept of racial preferences, set-asides, and quotas clash with the foundation on which our country was built. However, rushing head-long into the issue without building a national consensus will only be seen as political and divisive. American society is moving toward that consensus as evidenced by decisions by the United States Supreme Court, state initiatives and public opinion."

The Committee's action follows closely the Supreme Court's decision to let stand a lower court's ruling finding California's Proposition constitutional. Proposition 209, which California voters passed last year, abolished affirmative action in a variety of state programs, from hiring and college admissions to government contracting. The referendum had been suspended from taking effect because of legal challenges. About 20 states are considering their own ballot referendums similar to California's 209.

These actions leave many cities, especially those in California, treading gingerly with their responses to dismantling programs that consider race or gender in hiring or contracting. …

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