Adding a few boxes to state forms may seem like a fairly innocuous move. But a bill expanding data collection about Asian sub-groups has spurred another round in the ethnically-charged politics that helped scuttle a recent attempt to repeal affirmative action.
A little background: in 2014, an effort to repeal a ban on race-based college admissions fell apart after fracturing along ethnic lines. While many Latino and African-American lawmakers supported Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, Asian-American legislators felt a backlash from constituents concerned about their kids being squeezed out of top universities. Some of the most vocal opposition emanated from Chinese-Americans.
Now a similar dynamic appears to be playing out. Assembly Bill 1726 would have the Department of Public Health, the California State University and the University of California go deeper than “Asian” when collecting demographic data and begin asking about subgroups like Malaysian, Hmong and Fijian. Better data can lead to more targeted assistance, argues Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, whose office points to examples like a Santa Clara County campaign focused on high Hepatitis B rates in the Chinese and Vietnamese communities or a UCLA program aimed at struggling Pacific Islander students. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, worrying about “the ever growing desire to stratify.”
Plenty of Asian-American groups support the new version. Its sponsors include the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. But opponents, including Chinese-American groups from around the state, see a more nefarious effort to roll back California’s affirmative action ban. The rhetoric has turned dark, with critics of the bill warning ominously of data collection that preceded the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese internment. Opponents like the Silicon Valley Chinese Association will rally against the bill on the west steps starting at 11:15 a.m. along with Sens. Bob Huff and Jean Fuller and Assemblymembers Travis Allen, Catharine Baker and Kristin Olsen.
“They see AB 1726 as a backdoor to try and overturn Proposition 209,” said Mei Mei Huff, who is an unpaid liaison to the Chinese community for Huff, her husband.“Asians, especially Chinese, are more politically aware after 2014 and the last fight over SCA 5.”
BY THE NUMBERS: $9.3 billion was the total value of California milk and cream in 2014, the most for any single commodity. The dairy industry has launched a campaign fighting suggested climate regulations.
WORTH REPEATING: “She should be in jail right now as opposed to running for president.” -- U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, on Hillary Clinton and the email scandal
TRANSPORTED: Efforts to expand California’s wobbly cap-and-trade program have dominated talk at the Capitol but look unlikely to bear fruit this year, as the Brown administration seemed to concede in floating the idea of a 2018 ballot initiative. But climate change wonks will tell you cap-and-trade is but one tool in the environmental toolbox. An Assembly Transportation Committee hearing today will get more data on emissions-reducing programs related to transportation, including efforts to get more zero-emission vehicles on the road and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a requirement that has become a chief target for oil companies working to shape California climate policy. California Air Resources Board members will appear for a 1:30 p.m. hearing in room 4202.
INFORMATIONAL: It’s been a quiet week for legislative action (though that will change with tomorrow’s Appropriations Committee suspense file bloodletting). Instead, today’s agenda teems with other informational hearings. The Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture will get an update on the algae-driven acidity spike that temporarily shut down Dungeness crab fishing (room 3191, 1 p.m.). Progress on the environmental crisis that is the Salton Sea will be the subject of a 3 p.m. hearing in room 127. The Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee will review an audit spotlighting issues with the state’s veteran housing program in room 444 at 2:30 p.m.
TESTIFY: After stalling last year, a bill imposing tougher construction standards in response to the fatal collapse of a balcony in Berkeley is moving again. The mothers of two victims are scheduled to testify at a 9 a.m. hearing for Senate Bill 465 today, where they’re expected to be joined by a representative of the Irish Consul General.
MOVIE NIGHT: Taking a break from everyone wanting to be her friend ahead of her chairing Thursday’s big Appropriations suspense hearing, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, will host a 5 p.m. screening at the Citizens Hotel of a documentary about sexual assault of janitors called Rape on the Night Shift. Gonzalez has a labor-backed bill to cut down on such assaults by requiring employers to register and provide sexual harassment training. Assembly Bill 1978 sits on the Senate Appropriations suspense file, which means its fate will be revealed tomorrow morning as Gonzalez is doing the same for the stack of Senate bills on her committee’s desk.
CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, who turns 59 today.