BY KELLI NAKAYAMA
When the Washington State Legislature convenes on Jan. 9 for the 2006 legislative session, the state will face an estimated budget surplus of $1.4 billion.
On Feb. 2, 2006, members of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community will meet with legislators about using part of the surplus to address pressing needs in the areas of health care, job training, ESL, long term care, and welfare at the tenth annual Asian Pacific American (APA) Legislative Day in Olympia.
APA Legislative Day, which is sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) of Washington State, will also allow community members to discuss with elected officials education-related issues, such as the impact of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) on refugee and immigrant students, as well as issues of civil rights that affect communities of color.
Diane Narasaki, chair of the King County chapter of APIC, explains that Legislative Day provides the opportunity for constituents to “hear from the Governor and to speak with their legislators about priority issues of concern to the Asian Pacific American communities.”
In 2005, over 2,000 Legislative Day attendees from around the state rallied at the Capitol to advocate for the protection of state-funded services, such as refugee assistance programs, mental health services and medical assistance for immigrants.
Community mobilization is critical to the success of Legislative Day, according to Narasaki. “We anticipate that there will be key issues that affect our community’s access to vital services, education, and our civil rights under consideration in this session,” she says. “We need to be there to ensure that our Governor and our legislators hear our community’s position on the issues.”
APA Legislative Day is a grassroots, volunteer-run event, which benefits from the financial and in-kind support of community-based sponsors, says Narasaki. Currently, over 67 organizations have endorsed APA Legislative Day 2006.
Sponsoring organizations are encouraged to publicize Legislative Day to their employees and constituents, to attend planning meetings and community briefings, to bring constituents to the event, and to consider making a donation toward the cost of organizing the event.
Donations will cover the costs of logistical items such as rally and seating set up and transportation. “Buses cost around $500, and we will need many to accommodate the expected 2,000 participants who cannot make other transportation arrangements,” says Narasaki.
“A donation to cover the cost of a bus or partial cost of a bus or related logistics would be greatly appreciated,” she adds.
In order to inform participants about key issues to be addressed on the Legislative Day agenda, the Asian Pacific Islander Coalitions (APIC) of Pierce and Snohomish Counties, South Puget Sound, Southwest Washington, Spokane, and Yakima will host community briefing sessions throughout the month of January.
The King County chapter of APIC will conduct its community briefing session on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 5:30 p.m. at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (720 Eighth Ave. S., Suite 200) in Seattle’s International District.
Since 1997, APIC has advocated for equal access to culturally competent and linguistically accessible health and human services for all Washington State residents, particularly for immigrants and refugees. APIC has also promoted and defended civil and human rights in such areas as racial profiling, affirmative action, and bilingual education.