Senate Kills Ban of Affirmative Action
Kyle Henley, gazette.com (CO), Mar. 30
DENVER — Affirmative action is alive and well in Colorado after the Colorado Senate on Friday narrowly defeated legislation aimed at eliminating the long-standing civil rights initiative.
Senate Bill 194 was sponsored by Sen. Ed Jones, a Colorado Springs Republican and one of two black state senators.
Senators voted 18-17 to kill the bill, which would have barred government from using race as a factor in university admissions, hiring and contracting. All members of the El Paso County Senate delegation supported the bill.
Republican Sen. Lew Entz from Hooper voted with Democrats. Entz said he voted on behalf of his district, which is heavily Hispanic and benefits from affirmative action.
“We do not deny that racism and discrimination exists,” said Jones, whose impassioned voice boomed through the Senate during the debate. “But we do not stop racism with more discrimination.”
Jones argued affirmative action no longer is needed and doing away with it would be a “small step toward a colorblind society” in Colorado.
Jones could not convince his fellow senators, however, that getting rid of affirmative action is a good thing.
“Affirmative action has never been about preferential or special rights,” said Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver. “It is about leveling the playing field. It allows diversity to occur on our college campuses, our corporations and even here on the Senate floor.”
News of the bill’s defeat was greeted with joy by some black leaders in Colorado Springs, who had harshly criticized Jones during recent weeks.
“This is just good news,” said the Rev. Benjamin Reynolds, president of the local NAACP chapter and a local minister. “We are excited about it because it would have set people of color back in Colorado instead of helping us achieve a level playing field.”
Race is used sparingly in Colorado as a factor for university admissions.
At Colorado’s major schools — the University of Colorado’s four campuses and Colorado State University in Fort Collins — admission standards mostly are based on high school grades and standardized test scores.
In some cases, however, admissions officials do take into account a combination of race, financial status, geography and other factors for students who do not score high enough on tests. There are no quotas.
The state of Colorado does not use race as a factor for job applicants, but some counties and cities, such as Denver, give preference to minorities for jobs and contracts.
Colorado Springs city officials never took a stand against the bill — the city does not use race as a factor for hiring — but were concerned it would stop efforts to recruit qualified minority job candidates.
Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, added an amendment to clear up those concerns, allowing local government to continue minority recruitment programs.
“I want them to be able to go out and let them know about these opportunities,” Hillman said.
Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, said the amendment cleared up some ambiguities but the bill still was “shrouded in ambiguities.”
Groff, who is black, said the bill was superfluous.
“It is unnecessary because it is based on a series of dangerous and flawed assumptions,” Groff said. “This bill assumes racism doesn’t exist.”