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   Vol.64/No.23            June 12, 2000 
Florida initiative against affirmative action is dropped
MIAMI--Supporters of affirmative action scored a victory May 8 when businessman Ward Connerly called off his petition campaign to put an anti-affirmative action measure on the Florida ballot. His group, the Florida Civil Rights Initiative, was sponsoring four amendments to the Florida state constitution aiming to abolish affirmative action in public education, government contracting, and employment.

Connerly and his allies have spearheaded similar drives that eventually won majority votes in California and Washington State.

The retreat by these forces came after protests across Florida defending affirmative action programs--actions that involved tens of thousands. The demonstrations were organized by civil rights organizations, unions, and other groups, and targeted Gov. John Ellis Bush's "One Florida" initiative. Some 4,000 turned out at a February 3 hearing in Miami, 2,000 students marched February 8 in Tallahassee, and a March 7 statewide march drew thousands of unionists, farmers, students and others in Tallahassee.

Bush issued this executive order in November 1999, with the goal of eliminating affirmative action in public college admissions and state contracts.

The move by Connerly's group came only days after the state legislature passed portions of the governor's anti-affirmative action plan. In the wake of the public protests, Bush had scaled back some parts of his original proposal, and spokesman Justin Sayfie expressed the governor's satisfaction that Connerly's "initiative is not going to be on the ballot because he [Bush] believed it would be divisive for the state." Connerly in turn charged that Bush's plan didn't go nearly far enough in dismantling affirmative action. "It's like a 39-cent hamburger," he said, "Big bun, no pickle, no lettuce, no tomato, teeny-weeny patty."

Connerly called off his campaign claiming a lack of time to collect 500,000 signatures by the August deadline. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in March but has not yet ruled on whether the petition was legal. Connerly stated that he and his allies will try another petition drive in 2002.  
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