California State Senate Votes to Put a Measure on the Ballot That Would Restore CA Affirmative Action

Al Seib • Los Angeles Times

By Mella Bettag

SACRAMENTO – The California Senate followed calls for racial justice Wednesday, and passed a bill that, if the voters approve in November, could eventually allow for affirmative action again.

The California Act for Economic Prosperity, or ACA 5 for short, is a piece of legislation that repeals Prop. 209, a California constitutional amendment that has acted as a “barrier to employment and access to higher education for women and minorities” for 24 years, according to a statement from office of Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego), author of the measure.

The measure, which was first introduced in January 2019, came to the Senate floor at a pertinent time for racial justice. Calls for reform and action have grown exponentially in response to the murder of George Floyd a month ago. ACA 5 joins a growing number of legislation that is being passed during this time of protests.

Affirmative action began in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement. Many people believed legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on gender, race, color, religion, or national origin, wasn’t enough, and the concept of affirmative action was born. Affirmative action refers to the consideration of protected categories in order to ensure proportionate representation when hiring.

In California, all public universities and many private ones began to use affirmative action within their admissions, along with many businesses and public enterprises.

Prop. 209 went into effect in late 1996; its purported goal was to ensure equality under the law, prohibiting the consideration of gender, race, or nationality in university admissions or public employment. Its effects were clear—equal protection under the law did not equate to equal representation in public work spaces or in higher education.

During the debate Wednesday, Assemblymember Weber detailed some of the negative effects of Prop. 209 on underrepresented groups, noting “Proposition 209 has cost women—and minority-owned businesses—$1.1 billion each year, perpetuated a wage gap wherein women make 80 cents on every dollar made by men, and allowed discriminatory hiring and contracting practices to continue unhindered. Far from being colorblind, the bill has set up barriers to women and minorities to share in the economic life of California.”

Senator Holly Mitchell (D- Los Angeles), a co-author of the bill, referenced the current political upheaval in her statement, saying “the collective actions against inequality and injustice that we’ve seen around the world represent an urgent call for systemic change. We must be affirmative in our actions we take to bend the arc towards justice. It’s time for a new generation of California’s voters to stand up and advance equity.”

Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) also weighed in her support, saying “ACA 5 will ensure all communities have a level playing field to compete for these opportunities.”

Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) explained that because of the continuing history of oppression of African Americans within the United States, “bringing African-Americans into the mainstream of American Life should be a state interest of the highest order,” and without this action, we would “ensure that America will forever remain a divided society.”

The bill was co-written by the California Legislative Black Caucus, and is widely supported by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, the California Legislative Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus and over 300 business, civil rights, education and labor organizations.

The main opponents to ACA 5 are small Chinese-American organizations concerned about possible “racial” quotas that would be permitted under ACA 5. In the University of California, Asian Americans make up the majority of the student body.

But many first-generation Asian Americans are concerned that, if affirmative action were to be allowed, their children would have less of a chance to get the education that they had hoped for them when they came to the U.S. These groups are very active in their opposition, said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), who reported receiving 3,000 opposition calls, more than he has ever received on any other measure.

Affirmative action’s future “will now be in the hands of the voters,” said Assemblymember Weber. The measure will be on the ballot in November this year. “It’s time to give voters the chance to right this wrong,” she added.

To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice –

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

Related posts


  1. Alan Miller

    The main opponents to ACA 5 are small Chinese-American organizations concerned about possible “racial” quotas that would be permitted under ACA 5.

    It was very important for the DV to point out that these “Chinese-American organizations” were small.  In this spirit, I would like to point out the DV is also small.

    1. Keith Olsen

      I noticed that too.  Small is in the eye of the beholder.  You know how 10 students showing up at a council meeting for some cause is considered a huge outpouring where other times a larger group will be labelled only as a ‘few detractors’.

      1. Alan Miller

        . . . or the “usual suspects”, or “not representing Davis”, or “people who care about this subject are actually working for a living” or . . .

      2. Keith Olsen

        For a supposed small group they’re having a big impact:

        But many first-generation Asian Americans are concerned that if affirmative action were to be allowed, they would have less of a chance to get the education that their parents had hoped for when they came to the U.S. These groups are very active in their opposition, said Assembly member Evan Low (D-Campbell), who reported receiving 3,000 opposition calls, more than he has ever received on any other measure.

  2. Ron Glick

    Of the 5.6 million Asians in California around 650,000 identify as having Chinese ancestry. These populations are not small and shouldn’t be described that way. I’m sure that among these groupings there are many that are worried about lost opportunities for their children.

    The argument for prop 209 was that admission to college should be based on a system of merit that transcends race. Of course, as we have seen with recent college admission scandals, money can game the system.

    There is never going to be a perfect system until there is room at UC for every qualified student. That would be my solution. If you meet the requirements there is a place for you. Until then there will winners and losers no matter what system is adopted.

  3. Alan Miller

    I wonder if the DV used the term “small” due to implicit bias, or if that is negated by the fact the reverse racism isn’t racism, even though referring to people-of-color, the designation of which is negated since the group is seen sociatally as ‘successful’ and therefore honoris causa “white”?  Or something . . .

    Implicit Bias –  refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.

    Reverse Racismprejudice, discrimination, or antagonism on the basis of race directed against a member of a dominant or privileged racial group.

      1. David Greenwald

        Three key findings emerge from the survey data:

        • Asian Americans have consistently supported affirmative action policies, with some differences in support depending on question wording;
        • Support among Chinese Americans has declined dramatically over four years, while it has remained stable for other Asian Americans;
        • Despite declines due to opinion change among Chinese Americans, nearly two-thirds of Asian Americans still support affirmative action.
      2. Alan Miller

        > she used the word “small” because they do not encapsulate the bulk of the Asian-American population on the issue

        Wording matters:

        > small Chinese-American organizations

        Means they are small organizations, and implies they don’t matter.  That is very different from stating that polls (what polls?) show a finding.

  4. Keith Olsen

    Since 2019 white only enrollees in the UC system only accounted for 19.3% of the total student enrollment but whites represent 36.8% of the California population will this new ACA 5 Bill help more whites get into the UC colleges?

      1. Keith Olsen

        So affirmative action doesn’t apply to certain ethnic groups when their numbers are underrepresented.  That’s sounds like racism at its core.

        1. Alan Miller

          Do you understand what individual merits is?

          If there is systematic racism (and I believe there is), root it out.  That’s very different from re-establishing so-called affirmative action.

      2. Keith Olsen

        Whites are underrepresented by nearly 50% in the UC system according to their CA population.

        Blacks are underrepresented by 30%.

        I know how much you like data.


          1. David Greenwald

            I’m not disputing the numbers. But you’re only looking at those numbers, not what is causing those numbers and that’s what affirmative action seeks to address.

  5. Chris Griffith

    After seeing what comes out of the University of California I think we need to cut the cost of

    u c Davis by at least 50% at the very minimum

    We need to fire the UC regents and making it all volunteer non-paid board.

    This is my belief of affirmative action.

    1. Alan Miller

      After seeing what comes out of the University of California . . .

      We need to fire the UC regents and making it all volunteer non-paid board.

      I am pretty sure those you characterize as “what’s coming out of the Univeristy of California” would fully agree with you about firing the UC regents.

  6. Jeff Boone

    Systemic racism:

    Racism resulting from the inherent biases and prejudices of the policies and practices of social and political organizations, groups, or institutions.

    Systemic racism does not exist today in any way materially targeting one racial group over another.  It is a myth perpetrated by a political party.

    And if you disagree, then prove it with evidence.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Now you’ve done it!  That’s a very challenging statement.

      I’ll check in later, to see how many comments this generates.  (I’m so glad when this blog isn’t advocating for development, and I can pretty much just “witness” the fireworks.)

      But as usual – nothing on here will impact any possible statewide results, regardless.

      I seem to recall some successful legal challenge, regarding the last time that affirmative action was used.

  7. Jeff Boone

    What we have now is a full-blown social war… left politics against the private economy and the independence it represents.   It is clear now that the media and the political establishment, including many of the leaders in the health care industry, are working together to destroy the country in advance of the election as they know that depressed and angry people will vote for change and they can point to be big mean daddy man in the white house as the boogieman (again, relying on their media plants).

    Time to start the REAL rebellion.  These leaders can no longer be trusted.

    Texas paused reopening plans on Thursday as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations increased in a number of U.S. states and a new government estimate showed millions more Americans may have contracted the virus since the start of the outbreak than initially thought.

    More than 20 million people in the U.S. may have been infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a figure that is significantly higher than official case counts and reflects the large number of individuals who either exhibited mild or no symptoms or previously couldn’t get tested.

    Overall, the CDC estimates that only roughly 1 in every 10 Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has been identified, Director Robert Redfield said during a media briefing with reporters on Thursday, noting that 5% to 8% of Americans have likely been exposed to the virus. The estimates are based on national serological surveys that looked at samples collected via blood banks or for non-Covid-19-associated tests, Dr. Redfield said. The sample collection, which determines the presence of antibodies that indicate a person has had the disease, is still ongoing.

    “This outbreak is not over. This pandemic is not over,” Dr. Redfield said. “Greater than 90% of the American public hasn’t experienced this virus yet.”


    Public-health experts have been eager to see results from large antibody testing surveys, or seroprevalence surveys, to better understand just how many people have been infected with the virus, since the lack of adequate testing early in the pandemic meant that many infections went undiagnosed.

    If this many people are infected, then why the hell did we shutdown the economy to try to flatten the curve?  And if this many people are infected, it means that the virus was here many months if not years before they announced a pandemic?   And if this many people are infected, why the hell did they support the protests and riots?

    And lastly, if this many people are infected… then the mortality rate is nada… zilch.

    It is time to put and end to this madness and open the damn economy.  The nation is not going to suffer like this will the political establishment plays politics with the livelihoods of millions.

      1. Chris Griffith

        Oh I believe I posted  this in the right section. If we truly want affirmative action we need to rip a page out of the BLM handbook and utilize it. We should defund all colleges and rethink the way we educate our children. Is there anybody in the whole wide world that honestly thinks these professors  these individuals that run these universities are worth the money they’re making? Except that is the people that are running the schools they would be the only ones that think they’re worth that kind of money. If the BLM can tear down statues and defund police we can vaporize universities.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for