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Bush lawyers focusing on NAACP challenge

Attorneys for Gov. Jeb Bush are preparing to respond to the NAACP's legal challenge to his initiative ending affirmative action in state university admissions, a spokeswoman said.

Bush remains convinced the Board of Regents has the authority to change admission rules, spokeswoman Liz Hirst said.

The 58-page brief, filed last week with the state appeals court in Tallahassee by Florida NAACP attorney John Newton, aims to stop Bush and the state university system from continuing the Talented 20 component of his One Florida initiative.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People argues that Bush overstepped his authority by requiring universities to make space for all students in the top 20 percent of their class, regardless of whether the Legislature provided funding for them.

Attorneys for Bush and the state university system have 50 days to respond.

"The important thing about this case is not One Florida or the Talented 20," Newton said. "It's about the separation of power and who's going to decide these issues of statewide importance _ the governor by fiat or the Legislature through debate and careful balance."

In July, an administrative law judge rejected an NAACP challenge and allowed Bush's program to move forward. The governor's lawyers looked over the brief Tuesday, and Hirst said they think it just restates original arguments.

Talented 20 bans consideration of race and gender in university admissions. However, it guarantees admission to one of the state's 10 public universities to all high school students who graduate in the top 20 percent of their classes and pass a required academic curriculum.

The governor and the state university system, which approved the changes in the admissions policy earlier this year, insist the plan will boost minority enrollment.

"By the time this gets through the courts, we'll have a better record to show how successful it is," said regent Steven Uhlfelder. "I wouldn't have supported it if I didn't think it would work."