Arizonas equal opportunity programs under threat

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Arizona's equal opportunity programs are facing a renewed assault this week after the state legislature voted to place an anti-equal opportunity initiative onto the 2010 Arizona General Election ballot.

California businessman and millionaire Ward Connerly had attempted to qualify the initiative for the ballot in 2008. However, the so-called Arizona 'Civil Rights' Initiative, Proposition 104, failed to get on the ballot after the Arizona's Secretary of State disqualified more than 40 percent of the petition signatures collected by Connerly's campaign. Connerly had faced numerous allegations of fraudulent activities and even profiteering around these initiatives in Arizona and other states. Under Arizona state law, an initiative must have 230,047 valid signatures from the public before it is placed on the ballot. Having failed to garner enough public support with valid petition signatures, Connerly and his supporters have chosen to go through the legislature, which is currently controlled by Republicans.

The vote on this anti-equal opportunity ballot initiative in 2010 could affect programs that many Arizonans consider essential for ensuring that all Arizonans have equal access to opportunities in education and employment. Speaking after the state Senate vote Monday, state Sen. Rebecca Rios, D. Apache Junction, noted that although some progress has been made in providing equal opportunity, there is still a great 'need' for programs that are designed to level the playing field. Programs that could be affected include an Arizona State University initiative that helps Native Americans transition from life on the reservation to life at college and a counseling program for teen fathers in Phoenix