LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A bill moving through the Arkansas senate would end affirmative action in the state if it becomes law.

Proposed Senate Bill 71 would strike out large portions of the Arkansas code referring to the hiring and retaining minorities. The word “minority” would also be struck from teacher, administrator and university student retention programs.

The same elimination of language would take place for state hiring or procurement programs that had been structured to increase minority participation. The legislation would also change the name of the Department of Education’s Equity Assistance Center, to the Equality Assistance Center and eliminate its affirmative action role.

Republican State Senator Dan Sullivan, who sponsored the bill, said it would put people on equal footing.

“It’s going to take the government out of the job of picking winners and losers,” Sullivan said.

While the Racial Equity Coordinator for Arkansas Public Policy Panel Osyrus Bolly said programs that promote diversity ensure we have an inclusive society.

“I thought that this was just another bill that was being filed to discourage diversity, equity and inclusion,” Bolly said.

Any description of a minority would also be struck from Arkansas code such as Asian Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.

The legislation would then add a new section of Arkansas code to prohibit discrimination, stating “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, an individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in matters of state employment, public education, or state procurement.”

“This would allow more people to apply for those kinds of assistance and it doesn’t prohibit minority teachers from applying at all,” Sullivan said.

Bolly said affirmative action has had a staggering impact on underrepresented groups of people being admitted to state funded schools, and the bill would repeal that progress.

“It will eliminate these things that have been put in place to protect people and create more barriers that continues to take us back to a very dark place in American history,” Bolly said.

The bill is moving through the legislative process. Titled “To Prohibit Discrimination or Preferential Treatment by The State of Arkansas and Other Public Entities,” it moved through the State Agencies & Government Affairs senate committee on Tuesday with a “do pass” recommendation.

It is not currently on the senate schedule for a vote.

If the bill becomes law, Arkansas will join nine other states which have ended affirmative action, beginning with California in 2020 and followed by Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro) and co-sponsored by Rep. Marcus Richmond (R-Harvey).