Utah House Panel OKs Constitutional Amendment to End Affirmative Action

Christian Vanderhooft, Salt Lake Tribune, February 12, 2010

The House Business and Labor Committee voted along party lines Friday to support a proposed amendment to Utah Constitution’s barring the state from discrimination or preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Ward Connerly, a former member of the California Board of Regents who has worked to pass similar laws and constitutional amendments in California, Washington, Michigan and currently Arizona, is backing the amendment.

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Democrats accused the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, of failing to seek input from community and minority leaders before bringing it to the committee.

“Representative, it is awful. To pull this bill out two days ago and ram it down the throats of this community, is awful,” Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, told Oda. “This is big, and it deserves public input.”

Oda said Biskupski’s accusations were “improper,” before noting that the bill would have to be approved by two-thirds of both the House and the Senate before going to voters in November, allowing for plenty of time to comment.

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The measure now heads to the full House, where the GOP Caucus, which holds 53 of 75 seats, broke out in applause when the proposed amendment was presented Thursday.

If approved by 50 votes or more in the House, the measure will proceed to the Senate, where Republicans have 21 of 29 seats.

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, predicted HJR24 would clear the Senate with relative ease.

“The biggest problem is the quota system at the universities,” Waddoups said. “We’re not getting necessarily the most qualified students there because of it.”

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