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Bill honoring civil rights activist Dolores Huerta passes Legislature

OLYMPIA – Today the Senate passed historic legislation to designate April 10 as Dolores Huerta Day as Ms. Huerta herself looked on.

House Bill 1906, sponsored by Rep. Lilian Ortiz-Self, honors Dolores Huerta, a feminist, civil rights activist and labor leader who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962 and was instrumental in California’s adoption of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which granted farmworkers collective bargaining rights.

Huerta was at the Capitol today to participate in Latino Legislative Day activities with the Latino Civic Alliance. As she looked on from the gallery, several senators rose in support of the bill, which passed on a 44-0 vote. 

From a humble background, Huerta pursued an education as a single mom and became a teacher. Dismayed by the poor living conditions of her students, the children of farm workers, she joined movements to improve living and working conditions of farm workers, and also challenged gender discrimination within those movements.

As a key leader and organizer of the farm worker’s rights movement, she fought against discrimination, stood up for the rights of women, advocated to bring dignity to farm workers, and emphasized the importance of building community. Over the years, she has worked on many issues, such as comprehensive immigration reform, income inequality, and the rights of women and those in the Latino community.

“Women’s History Month celebrates the vital role of women in American history, and Dolores Huerta is one of those women we recognize as instrumental in the fight for farm workers’ rights,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle). “Her story resonates with many women from underrepresented groups, and her work has paved the way for women like me in assuming leadership roles in their communities. This recognition sends a message about the importance of the leadership of women and people of color.”

“I am proud that Washington will now honor the legacy and recognize the remarkable life of a tireless worker, a passionate advocate and a true fighter,” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, who prime-sponsored the measure and effectively steered it through the legislative process to get it out of the House the first week of March. “A warrior whose unwavering quest for civil rights, equality and justice continue to make our nation a more perfect union. A woman who defiantly looked oppression in the eye and said, enough. A Latina who pushed other Latinas to seek positions of leadership. An American who taught us that together we can do great things. ¡Sí se puede!

“Dolores Huerta is a true American icon,” said Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia). “Her leadership in establishing the United Farmworkers Union helped to lift up some of the lowest-paid workers, who make their living in backbreaking jobs harvesting our crops.”

HB 1906 passed the House on March 4 and now goes to the governor’s office to be signed into law.

Inslee signs Native American Voting Rights Act into law

Gov. Inslee signed the Native American Voting Rights Act today, allowing the residential address portion of a voter registration form to be filled out with a nontraditional address.

The measure would expand access to democracy in Native communities and prevent unnecessary barriers to voting, said John McCoy (D-Tulalip), prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5079.

“As the only enrolled tribal member elected to the Washington State Senate, I realize there is still much work to be done to ensure that the indigenous community can fully participate in the democratic process,” McCoy said. “Voter participation is not a partisan issue; it is the foundation of our democratic system and must be protected by all sides. Democrats and Republicans should be able to work together to ensure that our electoral system works in the interest of all Americans.”

“Our democracy works best when we all have the opportunity to participate. When entire communities are denied access to the ballot box; lawmakers need to take a look at systemic issues that need to be addressed,” he added.

State Legislature welcomes one of the most diverse cohorts on record, including women of color

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Legislature welcomed one of its most diverse cohorts of elected officials in state history on January 14. The most recent class includes a female majority in the House Democratic Caucus with women of color serving in both the House and Senate leadership ranks. Washington currently ranks fourth in the nation in terms of gender parity in the state legislature.

“Today is a resounding visual and symbolic demonstration of the diverse strength and talent that comes when we ensure our government is reflective of the people we represent,” stated Rep. Kristine Reeves, D-Federal Way, who will serve her second term in the House. “I am proud to count myself among the largest induction of women and people of color to the legislature in this state’s history. I look forward to fighting for families and putting people first as we work to represent all Washingtonians.”

“We doubled the number of women of color in the Senate in 2018, and again in 2019. We now have the most diverse legislative body in Washington state history,” said Senator Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, who serves as the Senate’s Deputy Majority Leader. “We are finally starting to see elected officials reflect the diverse communities that make up our country. Policies developed with input from diverse stakeholders work best to address all of our needs.” Dhingra is the first Sikh elected to any state legislature in the nation.

Senators Dhingra and Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, both serve as Deputy Majority Leader, making them the highest ranking women in the Senate. They are joined by newly elected Senators Mona Das, D-Covington and Emily Randall, D-Bremerton.

Senator Das is a small-business owner who moved to the United States from India with her family at eight-months old. Senator Randall is a community organizer. She plans to focus on affordable college, apprenticeship and job training programs.

The newly elected women of color to the House of Representatives include Reps. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, Debra Entenman, D-Kent, My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, and Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow.

Rep. Morgan is the former School Board Director for Franklin-Pierce County and US Army veteran. Prior to her school board service, she served as the Commissioner on the Board of the Pierce County Housing Authority and as a member of the Board of Community Health Care.

Rep. Entenman is the former District Director for Congressman Adam Smith. She was in the inaugural class of Seattle/County’s Head Start program, later serving on the Head Start Parent Council.

Rep. Thai is the former Board President of the Bellevue School Board and Vice President of the Washington State School Board Directors Association. Prior to her educational service, she was a practicing pharmacist, volunteered as a medical interpreter and co-taught in Vietnam’s first nursing graduate program. She is the first refugee woman to serve in Olympia.

Rep. Lekanoff is the Swinomish Governmental Affairs Director. Lekanoff is the first Native American woman elected to the House.

Freshmen members will join Reps. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, Kristine Reeves, Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, Sharon Tomiko-Santos, D-Seattle, Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue, and Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver. Stonier is the current Majority Floor Leader and Ortiz-Self is the current Majority Caucus Vice Chair.