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California Retains Affirmative Action Targets

Fortnightly Magazine - April 1 1996

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has decided not to increase voluntary goals for utility purchases from businesses owned by minorities and by women. The CPUC has also amended its rules on affirmative-action purchasing plans to state that "no penalty shall be imposed for failure of any utility to meet and/or exceed goals."

In 1988, the CPUC had set a goal that utilities must seek to purchase 20 percent of their goods and services from firms listed in the state-mandated program: 15 percent from minority firms and 5 percent from firms owned by women. (An interim goal of 1.5 percent for purchases from firms owned by disabled veterans is scheduled for 1997.) The CPUC noted that the state's utilities had achieved the approved goal for women by 1990 and for minorities by 1994. Following that success, the CPUC had asked concerned parties to explore the idea of raising the goal to 30 percent.

Nevertheless, the CPUC found no specific evidence to support higher goals, such as detailed supplier availability studies. It added that the goals did not operate as requirements or "quotas"; utilities that fall short need only furnish a reasonable explanation for their failure to do so. Re Rulemaking on Gen. Order 156, R.93-09-026, Dec. 18, 1995 (Cal.P.U.C.).


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