Race Preference Ban Frustrates Lame Duck

Michigan’s governor and legislative leaders spent enormous energy these past few days in lame duck session trying hammer out a road funding proposal. When they coalesced around a proposed 17% increase in the state’s sales tax as the solution, these leaders faced the challenge of getting a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to place the measure on an upcoming ballot. Because several Republican members opposed the tax hike, Democrats would have to almost unanimously vote ‘yes’ on the measure – and the Democrats understood their leverage.

 

According to MIRS News, a respected political newsletter, Democrats were willing to vote for the tax if Republican Governor Snyder would issue an executive order mandating racial preferences for some bidders in the selection of road project contracts. According to MIRS, Gov. Snyder was considering approving this deal, despite his 2010 campaign promise that he would respect voters’ 2006 approved ban on race preferences in public contracting.

 

Thankfully, this voter-approved ban is in the Michigan State Constitution – a fact brought to the Governor’s attention by several principled legislators privy to the negotiations. The race preferences deal was scuttled.

 

The moral of this story is that campaign promises by politicians are not enough to secure your right to equal treatment under law by your government, without regard to your ethnicity or gender. The legislative process is too convoluted and the demand for special treatment too politically profitable. Citizens must be vigilant in protecting their right to true equality through lawsuits, public education and awareness, and – if possible – with strong legal authority. It was the citizens of Michigan’s willingness to place a ban on race and gender preferences in their constitution in 2006 that saved them from racial contracting policies.

 

- Jennifer Gratz