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Phil Matier: Asian-American Lawmakers Pull Support For Affirmative Action Push

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Phil-Matier_BIO-HEAD Phil Matier
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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) — A push to change California’s affirmative action law at public universities is losing steam in the State Legislature after several Asian-American lawmakers pulled their support for the bill.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209 which bars affirmative action in admissions for the state university system. The idea before then was affirmative action spoke for itself. It was long a cornerstone of Democratic politics in the state.

But now Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA5), a move to repeal Proposition 209, has hit a wall in the Legislature because Asian-American lawmakers, under immense pressure from their ethnically-Asian constituents, who think it could hurt their chances of entry into the UC system.

This is a bit of a historic moment for the old Rainbow Coalition which doesn’t appear to be much of a coalition when it comes to this issue. Asian-Americans make up about 14 percent of the state population while the current UC freshman class is about double that figure.

So there is an imbalance here but, politically, what can be done about it?

Well, if you’re one of these State Senators or Assembly Members whose district is heavily Asian American, you put the brakes on it. But, it’s interesting because many of the lawmakers in the past have been at the forefront, or have been in strong support, with everyone else when it came to the issue of affirmative action.

But, “all politics is local,” and if you have problems in your district and you’re running for statewide office like State Sen. Leland Yee, and you’re looking at every vote you can get, you may not necessarily fight something this controversial, but you might just shelve it.

Interestingly, advocates like the organization Chinese for Affirmative Action have said they are “with the spirit of the law” but they are worried that it’s somehow going to hurt their chances of getting into UC schools; so instead they suggest just adding more people to the system.

I’m not sure if that will fly—or even if it makes any sense.

This is a real interesting phenomena and one that could start a shift of in a lot political thinking in California as it becomes a state where the majority is minorities. The minorities are looking at each other and wondering who is getting what.

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