California Bill Would Give Black Applicants an Edge in Getting Occupational Licenses

California Bill Would Give Black Applicants an Edge in Getting Occupational Licenses

Assemblyman Mike Gipson speaks at a press conference on April 26, 2024. (Assemblyman Mike Gipson's Office)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

5/3/2024

Updated: 5/6/2024

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would give preference to African American applicants seeking occupational licenses, for such professions as teaching, nursing, counseling, electrical work and others, especially those who are descendants of slaves.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, author of AB 2862, said the state’s licensing process poses barriers for African Americans seeking employment, particularly in terms of wage disparities and access to leadership or managerial positions.
“There has been historical longstanding deficiencies and internal barriers ... [for] African Americans seeking professional work, and by prioritizing their applications, we are bridging the gap of professional inequities of under representation and under compensation,” Mr. Gipson said in a bill analysis.
Under current law, only veterans are eligible for such prioritization.
Mr. Gipson argued in the analysis that if such priority can be granted to veterans, similar standards should be applicable to African-American applicants.
“If expediting licensure for veterans does not discriminate, then perhaps prioritizing African American applicants also is not discriminatory,” his statement reads. “Nor would a preference for African American applicants violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution any more than the existing preference for veterans.”
Supporters of the bill, including the Greater Sacramento Urban League and the California African American Chamber of Commerce, said the legislation addresses historical injustices and “promotes equity and provides opportunities for economic advancement within our community.”
However, opponents say it is “unconstitutional” and lacks legal backing.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm, argues in a statement that both the U.S. and California Constitutions guarantee citizens equal protection under the law, prohibiting the government from treating citizens differently based on race, ancestry, or other protected categories.
The law firm suggested if the bill were to become law, it would probably not hold up against legal challenges, referencing the Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard last summer. The court deemed the consideration of an applicant’s race as a factor in admissions decisions unconstitutional.
They argued that while the constitution allows the government to use race to remedy instances of past discrimination, the bill doesn’t cite any specific California laws that exclude African Americans or that were drafted with the intention of excluding workers needing redress.
Additionally, they said that introducing race as a factor in the licensing process would exacerbate barriers for many Californians seeking to enter the workforce, particularly low-income workers, who already face numerous challenges.
The law firm also pointed out that the representation of minority groups within industries often varies, suggesting that prioritizing one group over others would fail to address the root of the problem.
They argued that if the state were to do so, it should reduce barriers to licensure for all Californians.
The bill, which will now be heard in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, passed the Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee on a recent 13–2 vote.
If ultimately passed, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2029.
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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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