SACRAMENTO – Assemblymembers Das Williams (D-Carpinteria) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), chair and parliamentarian, respectively, of the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, issued a statement after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Bonta’s AB 176 to uncover social, economic, and educational disparities within the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) community.

AB 176 would have required the State Department of Managed Care and the California Community Colleges, California State University, and University of California to use specified categories for each major APIA group when they collect certain categories of demographic data. Some of the data revealed by the bill would include information on graduation rates, enrollment and admission for higher education, rates for major diseases, and leading causes of death per demographic. AB 176 is a major API Legislative Caucus priority bill.

Assemblymember Das Williams
Assemblymember Das Williams

In a statement on Oct. 7, Brown explained his reasons for the veto: “To be sure, there is a value in understanding data on race, ethnicity, gender and other aspects of identity … Despite this utility, I am wary of the ever growing desire to stratify. Dividing people into ethnic or other subcategories may yield more information, but not necessarily greater wisdom about what actions should follow. To focus just on ethnic identity may not be enough.”

Williams responded, “Data disaggregation has been a priority for the API Legislative Caucus since its inception in 2001. Gov. Jerry Brown laid the foundation for bills like AB 176 when he signed former Assemblymember Mike Eng’s (D-Monterey Park) AB 1088, a bill requiring two state agencies to collect and provide disaggregated data for APIA subgroups, in 2011.

“AB 176 was an elegant fix to a historically complex problem. The lack of disaggregated data makes people come up with assumptions that are already divisive. By relying on the aggregate data of the APIA community, California misses the needs of growing ethnic subpopulations.

“Looking at the recent Campaign for College Opportunity report on APIAs, we find that attainment of a bachelor’s degree for Asian Americans is 49%; however, when you disaggregate the data, we find that attainment for Laotians is 10%, Samoan is 12%, and Hmong is 13%. Disaggregating data provides a clearer picture of what APIA communities require assistance. Real information will make the situation less divisive than it already is.

“The Campaign for College Opportunity report further demonstrates, especially with respect to higher education, just how important comprehensive and reliable data is to making effective policy decisions for all members of the APIA community. The API Legislative Caucus is committed to continuing this important effort and will be reintroducing the bill as one of our first priorities in the upcoming legislative session.”

Assemblymember Rob Bonta
Assemblymember Rob Bonta

Bonta commented, “I strongly disagree with the governor’s statement that the bill was divisive. AB 176 measures currently existing disparities among APIA communities. The best way we can serve APIAs is to get information that accurately identifies where we are falling short.

“Take me as an example of how this works. With respect to representation in the California State Legislature, if you look at the APIA population as one group, there have been 35 APIAs who have served in the California State Legislature. However, once you break down the data, you will learn that it wasn’t until my election in 2012 that a Filipino American was elected to the California State Legislature. It’s not until you dig deeper and disaggregate the data by subgroup that you learn there has never been a Filipino representative — not for 165 years.

“That’s part of why it’s so important to me to give a voice not only to my own Filipino community, but to all APIA subgroups who face challenges that are distinct from the collective population. While many APIA groups share some of the same challenges, such as language access issues, racial discrimination, and obstacles arising from immigration, each of our diverse communities have different social, economic and educational outcomes that need to be addressed appropriately.

“AB 176 would have given the state a better understanding of the needs of each of these APIA subgroups, provide effective and targeted solutions, and improve service delivery within the APIA community.”

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