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Governor looks for compromise on policies for affirmative action

Gov. Jeb Bush is trying to come up with a compromise on affirmative action that would stop a movement for a constitutional amendment aimed at ending government preferences for minorities.

Bush said Friday his office was reviewing state affirmative action policies, and he expects to announce the results in about two months.

"I have a longstanding commitment to affirmative access to guaranteeing opportunity but not to guaranteeing results," Bush said in an interview while in Pensacola to visit low-performing schools.

"So any overt forms of quotas or preferences that discriminate from one group against the other _ when we identify those _ we will get rid of them," Bush said. "And we don't need an initiative to do that."

Ward Connerly, a Californian who led a successful drive to ban affirmative action in that state, is trying to get a similar proposal on the Florida ballot as a constitutional amendment.

"It's one of those issues that will divide people by race and ethnicity and not necessarily elevate the debate and push the best possible policy," Bush said.

Contractors have been financial backers of the anti-affirmative action drive, claiming minority preferences drive up construction costs. However, Allen Douglas, executive director of the Florida Associated General Contractors Council, said he expected the governor to make a good offer.

House Democratic Leader Les Miller of Tampa said he would look at the Republican governor's proposal, but he believes existing policies should be retained.

Bush said officials in his administration so far have found "a very convoluted system of data collection" in the affirmative action programs.

"It's more complicated than I wish it was," Bush said. "It's not been used really to the extent that it should have to provide opportunity. It's been more used . . . to fill out forms to show that you're doing something."