An association of contractors accused Caltrans in a lawsuit Thursday of colluding with the Obama administration to flout California's ban on race and sex preferences by reserving some state road-building contracts for companies owned by minorities and women.
"Caltrans is sideswiping the important principle of equal opportunity by using race, not lowest cost by a responsible bidder, to decide who gets government road and highway contracts," said Sharon Browne, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney who filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
The plaintiffs, the Associated General Contractors' San Diego chapter, seek to overturn the state Department of Transportation's decision in March to set aside 6.75 percent of federally funded road contracts to minority- and female-owned firms or to require contractors to make good-faith efforts to reach that goal.
Caltrans scrapped race-conscious contracting programs in 2006, after a federal appeals court ruled against similar programs in Washington state. The court ruled that a law, comparable to Proposition 209, California's 1996 ballot measure, forbade preferential treatment.