A bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk would require state health officials to collect and release data on 10 Asian and Pacific Islander subgroups previously labeled as “Asian” or “Pacific Islander.”
The groups include Californians of Bangladeshi, Hmong, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Fijian, and Tongan descent.
A previous version of the bill sought similar data from the state's higher education system. But the version that cleared Assembly and Senate votes in recent days is limited only to the collection of data by the state public health system.
Proponents say the measure would give state Department of Public Health officials better data on specific Asian and Pacific Islander groups to help them identify specific problems with the communities, such as a lack of health insurance or high rates of certain diseases.
“It focuses on identifying disparities within some of our API [Asian-Pacific Islander] communities that we can identify, and hopefully take steps to resolve those challenges that we see," said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the bill's sponsor.
The bill divided Asian and Pacific Islander groups, especially before the legislation was amended. Some Chinese Americans opposed it, fearing they could be disadvantaged in college admissions if other groups were given priority.
"There was going to be quotas, there was going to be race-based admissions, which has nothing to do with how well you do on your test scores or what your achievements are," said Peter Kuo, a member of a group called the Silicon Valley Chinese Association.
Bonta said the bill was never going to affect collect admissions, and that it was misunderstood: "The opponents were arguing about something that is simply not in my bill," he said.
The assemblyman said he worked with the governor's office to amend the bill after a similar measure was vetoed last year.
Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the bill.