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California Senate Halts Anti-Quota Bill

FOR opponents of a California measure that would end state affirmative action programs, it's one down and one to go.

The California Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted five to four on Tuesday against a proposed state constitutional amendment that would bar state or local governments from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to anyone on the basis of race or sex in public employment, education, or contracting.

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But opponents of the amendment now must face the possibility of the measure going to a referendum. Backers of the amendment say they will launch a signature-gathering campaign to put the issue before voters in November 1996.

''The state legislature has failed in its responsibility to allow the people of California to express themselves on this critical issue ...,'' Tom Wood and Glynn Custred, two academics who authored the measure, said in a statement. Some 700,000 signatures are required to put their proposed California Civil Rights Initiative on the ballot. Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Californians support their initiative.

California Gov. Pete Wilson (R), who has endorsed the initiative, said the committee vote effectively blocked ''any further serious discussion in the legislature of the value of affirmative action.''

Governor Wilson has launched an exploratory committee for a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and says that reform of affirmative action programs is likely to be one of the planks of his presidential campaign.

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