- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

A part of a Florida program to ban affirmative action has been found unconstitutional by a federal judge because it still requires state agencies to consider race and sex in awarding contracts.

The program was a key element of Gov. Jeb Bush’s “One Florida” initiative, which started as an executive order in 1999 and became Florida law in 2000. One Florida was the governor’s attempt to eliminate racial and gender preferences in contract awards and race-based state university admissions, but critics say it fell short.

Mr. Bush’s office said yesterday the governor intends to revise Florida’s contracting program to meet constitutional requirements, in an attempt to comply with U.S. District Judge Stephan P. Mickle’s ruling.

The program was challenged by the South Florida chapter of Associated General Contractors, a commercial builders’ group. The main problem, an AGC spokesman said, is that only state agencies headed by the governor — about half of them — barred race from contract considerations.

“Meanwhile, other state agencies still had percentage goals” for how much state business should be awarded to individual minorities, said Allen Douglas, executive director of the 1,500-member AGC, which represents contractors and subcontractors.

AGC, which opposes affirmative action, held that the portion of One Florida dealing with state contracting does not end discrimination against white contractors and it violates the “equal protection” clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Mickle gave those involved in the case until Feb. 20 to come up with a remedy, but that much time may not be necessary.

An arrangement designed to meet Judge Mickle’s and AGC’s demands that the One Florida plan should be “race-neutral” was agreed to Friday by AGC and the governor’s office even before news of the judge’s decision was released, Mr. Douglas said.

Under the arrangement, which will be presented to the judge, state agencies would ban consideration of race or gender in awarding construction contracts, but would implement a new program aimed at helping any small-business owner, regardless of race or gender, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

“We got an agreement in which the state promised it won’t use race and gender criteria in awarding contracts,” Mr. Douglas said.

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