Oklahoma State Question 759 would limit affirmative action

TULSA - In its long history, the state capitol has seen plenty of political battles but few more intense than the fight over affirmative action and whether it should play a role in who works at the capitol.

"We passed affirmative action a long time ago," said State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow.  "I think that was corrected in the 80s and 90s."

The Broken Arrow doctor is one of several lawmakers who put State Question 759 on the November ballot.

If voters say yes it would ban the use of affirmative action in state employment, meaning race and sex could no longer play a role in who the state hires.

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"We in government should not pick winners and losers and I think now we're going way overboard to the point where it's become reverse discrimination," said Ritze.

However, the statistics seem to show otherwise

A study by the Henderson Center for Social Justice showed that people of color make up 30 percent of Oklahoma's population but make up only 23 percent of workers in the public sector.

"When you look at the state employment statistics, you're not seeing a whole lot of African Americans in these positions and if you do, they're not in positions of power," said Sen. Judy McIntyre, D-Tulsa.

She is fighting against the proposal, which would also outlaw the use of affirmative action in county and city governments.
    
"It's intended to excite and anger a lot of the Republican base and poor whites," said McIntyre. "Who may believe that African Americans have been given jobs and taken jobs from them and that's not true."

The affirmative action ban could also impact who the state gives contracts to for things like road work.

"What we're seeing now is a king of reverse discrimination," said Ritze. "If we give out a government contract, we had to go out and make sure we had a certain amount of minorities or a certain class perform that."

"He's trying to move to a color blind society and I don't think we're there yet," said McIntyre.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, states that have passed similar bans have seen reduced opportunity for minorities and women.

Voters will have the final say Nov. 6.

Voters will also decide on State Question 764, which would allow the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds that would help pay for water and sewage treatment across the state.

Proponents say it will provide important loans to communities for their drinking and wastewater systems.

Opponents say it will add to the state's debt.

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