[ NEWS ]








By Zach Thomas
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 26, 1998

Affirmative action bill dies in Senate

PHOENIX - A hotly contested measure that would have rubbed out preferences in state-funded programs was voted down in the Arizona Senate yesterday, but the primary sponsor said he will try to put a similar proposal on the November ballot.

University of Arizona officials had opposed the bill because it could slice UA retention and enrichment programs for minority students along with university recruitment policies.

"I'm reassured, but not surprised," said UA President Peter Likins, a vocal opponent of the measure. "It seemed unlikely that it would succeed in the Legislature, and our concerns have been borne out."

Bill sponsor Sen. Scott Bundgaard, R-Glendale, said ballot initiative efforts are underway so voters can decide in November whether state-funded programs can take into account race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in government hiring, education or contracting.

The now-defeated Senate Concurrent Resolution 1005 would have put the issue to voters as a referendum.

The Senate voted 11-19 to defeat the measure. All the yes votes were Republican. Several GOP senators, however, broke party ranks and voted no, including Sen. Ann Day, R-Tucson.

Bundgaard had said earlier he would target Day and five Republican senators in radio ads in order to pressure them to support his proposal.

He also said yesterday that the affected university programs could be changed - not canceled.

"What they would do is have to reconfigure those programs not to consider race," Bundgaard said.

Under the anti-preference proposal, the UA Office of Minority Student Services could have been affected, because students must be a member of a minority group or receive need-based financial aid to utilize the office's resources.

Those possible effects don't hold for minority student resource centers, like the Native American Student Center, which any student may utilize regardless of minority status.

But recruitment programs that target prospective students based on race or ethnicity could be hit.

"These types of outreach programs would be challenged in the courts under this resolution," said Sen. George Cunningham, D-Tucson, during discussion on the Senate floor.

Likins stressed that after the recruitment stage, minorities are subjected to the same application process as everyone else.

The UA president said yesterday that his concern now lies with the proposed initiative.

"The very act in seeking an initiative is in itself a divisive exercise, because people have to be persuaded that there is a problem to solve," he said.

Likins has long maintained that Arizona's three state universities do not admit students or hire faculty and staff on a racial, ethnic or gender basis - unlike California's old system that voters threw out in 1996.

Bundgaard's measure is similar to the highly publicized Proposition 209 in California, which was sparked by established quotas for both student enrollment and employee hiring in the state's university system.

Civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, which opposed the bill, were on hand in the Senate gallery during yesterday's vote.

Bundgaard has until July 2 to gather the 167,000 petition signatures necessary to put an initiative on the ballot.

(LAST_SECTION)  - (Wildcat Chat)  - (NEXT_STORY)