Ending affirmative action in Arkansas tabled by House panel

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A proposal to end affirmative action by government agencies in Arkansas was tabled by a House panel Monday, following criticism that it could jeopardize dozens of programs around the state.

The move means the legislation would have to overcome an additional vote before it could be taken up by the Republican controlled House committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. The measure, narrowly approved by the majority-GOP Senate last week, would prohibit both discrimination and preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Republican Rep. Marcus Richmond, who made the motion to table the legislation, said lawmakers need more time.

“If you’re going to do something that has that much impact, you need to do your due diligence on it,” he said.

Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, the bill’s sponsor, said he asked that the bill be tabled to give him time to meet with House members. Sullivan has said his proposal is an effort to address discrimination.

Opponents say the proposal threatens dozens of state and local programs, including efforts to improve the health of racial minorities and support historically Black colleges.

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a challenge to admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, two institutions that consider race among many factors in seeking a diverse student body.

Several states already have bans or restrictions on affirmative action. The most recent to enact such a prohibition was Idaho in 2020.

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