The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony Jan. 27 on a proposal to create the state Commission on Asian American Affairs.
Sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Rita Sanders, LB2 would create a 14-member commission composed of individuals of Asian descent and appointed by the governor. The commission would promote state and federal legislation beneficial to Asian Americans in Nebraska, and coordinate programs relating to housing, education, welfare, medical and dental care, employment and other programs.
The commission would meet at least quarterly and commissioners would receive a $50 per diem for each day spent performing their duties, as well as reimbursement for travel and other allowable expenses.
Sanders said that with the growing Asian American population in Nebraska, it is important to gather representatives to enhance the rights of Asian Americans in the state.
“The Asian American community in Nebraska comprises 3.5 percent of Nebraska residents and are the fastest growing minority group in the state,” Sanders said. “With the rise of instances of anti-Asian hate crimes across the nation, it is more important than ever to establish a commission that can educate the population about the very contributions that different Asian cultures bring to our state.”
Maria Arriaga testified in support of LB2. She said her time leading the Nebraska Commission on Latino-Americans has helped her realize the importance of such organizations.
“It is important to have a voice that can be heard on these issues where, in many cases, there are no other entities fighting for you and your rights,” Arriaga said. “[The state commission] helps bring the population closer to the government and shows that Nebraska has a genuine interest and investment in this specific population.”
Also testifying in support of the bill was Sheila Dorsey Vinton, executive director and CEO of the Asian Community and Cultural Center. The Asian American community experiences many barriers, she said, including a lack of mental health resources, translation and interpretation resources and insufficient support for survivors of domestic violence and racially motivated aggression.
“With the establishment of a commission on Asian affairs, there is the potential to research these issues and develop culturally relevant resources that are unique to impacted communities,” Dorsey Vinton said.
Testifying in the neutral capacity was Marrianne Williams. She said that while she is in complete support of LB2, she had concerns that the proposal grouped Pacific Islanders in with the Asian American community.
“As a Samoan and Pacific Islander, I was a little concerned that we were not represented,” Williams said. “I’m hoping to see some changes in the bill that could reflect my heritage, too.”
Sanders indicated that she would be open to renaming the commission to the Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs Commission.
No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on LB2.