Schwarzenegger Signs Racial Quota Bill

La Shawn Barber

10/26/2009 7:56:59 AM - La Shawn Barber

California legislators ought to carry a copy of the state constitution in their pockets and refer to it when writing laws. It's a useful guide, laying out what the people have a right to do and what the government shall not do. For example, Article I, Section 31 reads in part:

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"The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

Thirteen years ago, 54 percent of voters passed Proposition 209, which added this language to the state's constitution. But legislators either are unaware or they just don't care. The latest attempt to circumvent the law is requiring race- and sex-based quotas in contracting. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who swore to uphold the constitution, signed into law a bill that directs state departments to award government contracts to the lowest responsible bidder subcontracting 15 percent of the work to minority-owned businesses and five percent to female-owned businesses. The contractor who fails to do so will be rejected, even if he's the lowest bidder. Perhaps Schwarzenegger should carry the constitution as well. Do he and his assistants read bills before he signs?

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLE), an organization dedicated to keeping discrimination and preferential treatment out of government, filed suit against the state earlier this month, alleging that the law violated Article I, Section 31. Ward Connerly and the American Civil Rights Foundation are plaintiffs in the suit.

"These new quotas are a destructive and illegal attempt to pull California backward - back to a time when government routinely judged people by their skin color and sex," said Connerly, the man who spearheaded the Proposition 209 campaign. "By enacting Proposition 209, California voters said they wanted to move beyond that era of division, discrimination, and animosity. Unfortunately, the message still hasn't gotten through to many state lawmakers and, apparently, not even to the governor. The courts are going to have to instruct them that their constitutional duty is to defend equal rights and equal opportunity, not undermine them."

Requiring businesses bidding for government contracts to subcontract based on race definitely undermines equal rights and equal opportunity. People have no problem seeing the injustice in discriminating against blacks. Why the blinders when it comes to discrimination against non-blacks? Neither the compensatory justice rationale nor skin deep-only diversity obsession justifies continuing a practice that has divided the nation the way race has.

What's wrong with giving everyone the opportunity to bid on projects and selecting contractors based on the lowest bid? Why the quota? Not only is it illegal, it costs taxpayers more money (as if anyone cares about them). PLF Principal Attorney Sharon Browne said lawmakers and the governor "also disregarded principles of sound budgeting, because projects are more expensive when they don't go to the lowest responsible bidder."

The state legislature had to know the quota law would be challenged in court. Why did these elected representatives ignore the will of the people and bring back government-mandated racial discrimination?