Beacon Hill Sends Massachusetts Asian-American Data Collection Bill To Study, Proposal Dead….For Now

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By Katie Lannan

BOSTON — A proposal to require state agencies to seek more specific information about people of Asian descent has been reworked by a committee that wants to see the idea studied instead of instituted.

The bill (H 3361) originally called for all state agencies to have individual data for “the five largest Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups residing in the Commonwealth” — Chinese-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, Indian-Americans, Cambodian-Americans and Korean-Americans — rather than categorizing them all as Asian-American.

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Supporters of the Rep. Tackey Chan bill have said disaggregating the data could lead to better research on individual communities that have different health needs, while opponents — who turned out in droves for a Jan. 30 hearing — raised fears of racial profiling and questioned why other ethnic groups would not be asked for more information.

The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight redrafted the bill, proposing an 11-member commission to “study the feasibility and impact of directing state agencies to collect disaggregated demographic data for all ethnic and racial groups, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau,” according to House Chair Jennifer Benson’s office.

Benson said more than 500 people testified on the bill. She said she was “disappointed at the vitriol” expressed by some opponents, calling it “inappropriate and damaging to this process” and expressing appreciation for “those who conducted themselves with civility while delivering passionate testimony.”

“I had concerns about the original legislation from the start, but every bill must have, and deserves, a thorough process in committee and in the hearing room,” Benson said in a statement.