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Former supporter criticizes One Florida

The reason: Changes Bush has made to his plan for ending race-based policies.

By WILLIAM YARDLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- As Gov. Jeb Bush boasted Wednesday of awarding $15-million in state contracts to minority businesses, his One Florida plan to overhaul affirmative action was attacked by a former supporter.

Herb Harmon, campaign manager for Ward Connerly's petition drive to abolish affirmative action in Florida, told a House committee that Bush made too many alterations to his plan for ending race-based policies in state contracting.

Harmon called the changes a "complete departure" that ignored the wishes of "an overwhelming majority of Florida citizens."

The governor, who initially planned to push for legislation this year that would abolish existing affirmative action laws in all state agencies, has changed his immediate goal to ending race-based policies in agencies under his direct control.

The move requires no legislative action. Bush aides call it his leadership model. They say he will pursue legislation next year.

The committee passed the plan with one dissenting vote from Rep. Addie Greene, a black Democrat from West Palm Beach. The revised measure would increase anti-discrimination laws in contracting and streamline the process by which minority businesses are certified to bid on state contracts.

Harmon, who once planned to lobby lawmakers to support and expand One Florida, said Bush has backed down too easily following protests and criticism.

"This is not leadership," Harmon said after speaking before the House Governmental Operations Committee. "What he said is, "I surrender.' "

Bush deputy chief of staff Frank Jimenez told the committee that the changes were not a "departure, but that Bush had made improvements to One Florida.

After the committee meeting, Bush's minority business chief, Windell Paige, passed out news releases touting $15-million the state awarded to minority businesses at an Orlando "matchmaking" conference this week. Paige said the contracts are the result of doing a better job of reaching out to minority businesses.

Later Wednesday, all 10 state universities filed an emergency petition asking to be exempted from part of a One Florida college admissions rule they had adopted only two months ago.

The universities asked an administrative law judge to allow flexibility in the elective courses high school students must take to qualify for admission.

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