Cherry trees fully in bloom at the State Capitol Building in Olympia. Photo by Linda J. Smith

Cherry trees fully in bloom at the State Capitol Building in Olympia. Photo by Linda J. Smith

I-1000 passes state Legislature as advocates hope to increase equality

The initiative could allow affirmative action to return to Washington state after 20 years.

Affirmative action will once again be allowed in Washington state after the Legislature passed an initiative in the final hours of the 2019 session.

The initiative, known as I-1000, was sent to the Legislature after receiving nearly 400,000 signatures earlier this year. It amends the 1998 voter-approved I-200, which effectively curtailed any form of affirmative action in the state, leading to dramatic declines in minority and woman-owned businesses receiving public contracts, securing jobs or being admitted to public universities. I-1000 was passed on April 28.

I-1000 passed both the state House and Senate but was quickly challenged by a referendum measure to put the initiative before voters on the November ballot. The opposition has 90 days to collect roughly 130,000 signatures.

The votes in the state Senate occurred nearly along party lines, with two Democrats, including Issaquah’s Mark Mullet voting against it, citing a “verbal promise” he made to vote against it. Others, including Bellevue’s Patty Kuderer who sponsored the bill, spoke in support.

“It’s startling — we heard from business leaders, from Vulcan and Amazon, Microsoft. We heard from three governors, from both parties. We heard from groups,” Kuderer said. “The veterans groups, we heard from business leaders, we heard from elected officials at all levels of government, we heard from minority groups. We heard from so many people telling us that I-200 poses barriers to women and minorities in terms of advancing.”

Before I-200 was passed, the state spent roughly 10 percent of its contracting dollars with minority and woman-owned businesses, Kuderer said. That dropped to below 3 percent within the following years and has never recovered.

While I-1000 reinstates affirmative action in Washington state, it does not allow for preferential treatment. Affirmative action allows public organizations to take a person’s race, gender, disability or veteran’s status into account when hiring, but that cannot be used as the only factor. Opponents of I-1000 have said it will allow unqualified people to be placed into jobs and universities ahead of other, more qualified applicants.

Kan Qiu is the president of the American Coalition for Equality, also known as WA Asians for Equality. Qiu filed a the referendum measure seeking to put I-1000 in front of voters in November.

“It is against people’s will. Initiative 200 was passed by people by more than 58 percent in 1998,” he said. “We think people deserve to vote.”

Qiu said he is concerned the initiative could hurt Asian American communities in the state.

Sen. Bob Hasegawa, a Democrat representing the Beacon Hill neighborhood in Seattle, said during statements in the Senate that wasn’t the point of I-1000.

“There is a misperception that I-1000 or affirmative action grants privilege to advance less qualified people over more qualified people — that’s absolutely wrong,” he said. “… You have to be qualified, but if there’s a proven disparity in either education, on a job, in contracting opportunities, then we have to make that right because that disparity leads to futility when it turns into institutionalized racism.”

Hasegawa additionally said that after the passage of I-200, the number of minority and woman-owned companies competing for bid dropped from about 4,900 to some 2,600.

The initiative was additionally supported by King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, who testified in front of the Legislature in support of I-1000. Gossett said in an interview he believes the initiative is a positive step toward achieving greater equality for people of color and women.

“I hope that university campuses, and amongst both public and private employers around the state, particularly in those areas where there is substantial evidence that people of color, women, have been excluded, discriminated against, are now able to move projects and programs forward,” Gossett said.

Gossett said contract opportunities even in King County have been severely dwindled for people of color and women since I-200 was passed in 1998. However, Gossett said he is expecting there to be a substantial push in the state to repeal I-1000.

“I’m excited first about both the House and the Senate, the Washington state Legislature passing it. I’m confident that the governor will sign it, but I, being a realist, believe that there’s a great possibility for people to mount an initiative drive to kill the implementation of I-1000,” Gossett said. “And that would be extremely dissatisfying and hurtful if that happens. But if indeed it does happen, then I’m sure that beneficiaries of these incremental changes and affirmative action, as well as every democratic loving person in the state will join hands, not to sign the initiative, but will join hands to prevent this initiative drive should it occur from being successful.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in News

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Assessments are in, Pierce County property values continue to climb

Properties in Orting saw the greatest percentage increase over last year

Courtesy of Mountain View Fire and Rescue
Mountain View Fire and Rescue seeks levy on Aug. 4 primary ballot

Service area includes unincorporated King County near the cities of Auburn, Enumclaw and Kent.

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Enumclaw, Black Diamond police blotter | June 24 – July 6

Garbage bears, racing jet skis, and illegal fireworks.

Owner of proposed Enumclaw Recycling Center ordered to close Auburn location

King County has been trying to shutter the Buckley Recycle Center for nearly 15 years, and claims the lack of progress at the Enumclaw site shows the owner has little interest in complying with county regulations.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Most Read