After COVID-19 ‘Break,’ Law That Would Restore Affirmative Action Passes Committee

Cop Reform Lawmaker Claims Consumer and People of Color/Women Committee Wins


SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego) – fresh off major police reform victories the last legislative session – pushed through two key measures Tuesday through committee on just the state legislature’s second day back from a COVID-19 pandemic break.

One bill seeks to protect consumers from the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the other measure is a constitutional amendment that would unblock economic opportunities for people of color and women in the state.

The first legislative, AB 2443, passed the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection – it would help ensure that the firms behind “fly-by-night” debt settlement companies are held responsible when consumers are cheated.

“Fly-by-night” debt settlement companies were targeted in AB 2443, which was approved by the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection – it would guarantee that these companies would be held responsible when consumers are cheated.

According to Weber’s office, the bill offer “protections from predatory prorating companies who are supposed to act as a payment mechanism for the consumer. These pro-raters set up front companies, take money from consumers with a promise to settle their debts, and instead, pocket the money. The front companies disappear, leaving no legal recourse for the consumer while the proraters are shielded from legal action under current law.”

Weber said the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 crisis and resultant crush on consumers would allow these companies to “prey” on consumers who are financially distressed by the economic effects of the pandemic.

“These are vulnerable consumers who are seeking a resolution to their debt,” Weber said, adding “Instead of getting the help they are promised, these companies steal their money and leave them in a worse state financially and legally vulnerable. This bill is aimed to remedy that and provide a legal means of holding these companies accountable.”

The second measure OK’d Tuesday, on a 6-1 party line vote by the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, was Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA 5), or the California Act for Economic Prosperity.

Weber said ACA 5, if approved by voters, would eliminate “roadblocks” for people of color and women to share the state’s economic and educational opportunities.

This constitutional amendment, explained Weber, would give voters the opportunity to revisit Proposition 209, a measure that created roadblocks for women and people of color to share in the state’s economic and educational opportunities.

“Businesses owned by women and people of color lose out on over a billion dollars annually because of Proposition 209. As lawmakers, due to this measure, we are prevented from authoring policies that address the specific needs of Black, Latin, API, Native Americans, or women, although they suffer from significant inequalities in state contracting, employment, wages, and access to quality education,” said Weber.

“It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since this misguided law was enacted. We owe the voters an opportunity to right this wrong,” she added.

The measure is backed by more than 100 labor, civil rights, educational organizations, including the Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust-West, AFSME 3299 and Asian Americans for Affirmative Action. It now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration in the next few weeks.

ACA 5 would “open up contracting and hiring for minorities and women,” said Weber, adding that Prop. 209 amended the California Constitution so race, sex, or ethnicity could not be considered in admission to public employment, public education, and public contracting.

Prop. 209 “eliminated state and local government affirmative action programs in the areas of public employment, public education, and public contracting to the extent these programs involve ‘preferential treatment’ based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin,” proponents claim. Prop. 209 affected the consideration of race in public universities including the Universities of California, the California State Universities, and community colleges.

The California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Prop. 209 in 2000 and again in 2010, making California one of one of only eight states that does not consider race or gender in hiring.

“Since becoming law in 1996, Proposition 209 has cost women and minority-owned businesses $1.1 billion each year,” said Assemblymember Weber. “It has perpetuated a wage gap wherein women make 80 cents on every dollar made by men and has allowed discriminatory hiring and contracting processes to continue unhindered.”

Weber quotes a 2015 study by the Equal Justice Society that concluded, “Proposition 209 caused the state and local governments to end their race-conscious contracting programs, resulting in a loss of $1 billion to $1.1 billion annually for MWBEs [Minority and Women business enterprises].”

The Opportunity for All Coalition also states on their page, “In the last five years, the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in the number of women-owned businesses. Women are well above average in job creation and the revenue growth — but in California, the world’s fifth largest economy that is expanding faster than anywhere else in the U.S., women are missing out on that prosperity.”

“In contracting, small business owners don’t get the same fair shot because of Prop 209,” said Vincent Pan, representing Chinese for Affirmative Action, noting “In Chicago or Atlanta, Asian American-owned businesses win more public contracts than in San Francisco or Los Angeles where equal opportunity is banned because of this law.”

“California is home to the greatest number of women-owned businesses in the nation and having contract gender parity is important,” said Democratic Santa Barbara Assemblymember Monique Limón. “ACA 5 allows California voters to decide whether gender parity should be mandated or whether we should continue with the status quo that has fallen short in achieving gender equity.”

“I’m a product of Affirmative Action. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Democratic San Diego Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales. “I believe every qualified person from an underrepresented community in California should have the same opportunity I had.”

The San Francisco Chronicle noted that, following the passage of Prop. 209, the University of California, Berkeley’s “proportion of Latino and black freshmen dropped by half immediately after Prop. 209 took effect.”

The Chronicle also notes how supporters argue that the affirmative action prevention legislation leads to “curtailing efforts to use hiring to increase diversity in police departments and school workforces.”

Supporters of ACA 5 include “the Black, Latino, API and Women’s Caucuses, as well as leading business and civil rights organizations across California, including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action and scores of faith-based organizations.”

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