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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bill to honor ‘Americans of Chinese Descent’ in January passes through Washington Senate

The Washington Capitol building in Olympia.  (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)
By Elena Perry The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – A bill that would designate January as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month passed unanimously on the Washington Senate floor Wednesday.

The Legislature is considering this bill for the third session in a row.

The bill would designate January in honor of Americans of Chinese descent and their contributions to Washington. It would also urge school districts around the state to celebrate the month and partake in appropriate activities in recognition, though schools would not be required to alter their curriculum.

“(Students) can learn about this part of our history,” said Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedrow-Wooley, the sponsor of this bill. “It means a lot to Americans of Chinese descent and their families, but it benefits us all because the history is factual, and the information is factual.”

The bill was the first filed this session and received public hearing on the first day of the legislative session.

Lawmakers chose the month of January due to its proximity to Lunar New Year. The first day of the Chinese Lunar new year typically falls within the month of January or early February on the Gregorian calendar, with festivities around the world commencing during this time.

“It is long overdue to establish Americans of Chinese Descent History Month,” testified Linda Yang of the Washington Asians for Equity. “The designated month must be meaningful to Chinese Americans so that the community will embrace it every year. No other month fits better than January.”

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, was among many lawmakers who spoke in support of the bill, noting that Lucy He, a Central Valley high schooler from his district, won an essay contest on the subject and received a Legislative ticket of appreciation in January.

“I’m happy to support this resolution,” Padden said.

The bill passed unanimously through the Senate last year, but it died in the House of Representatives. Representatives ran out of time to vote on it during the shorter 60-day session.

During that short session, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, and other House Democrats raised several questions about the bill, leading to its stalling and eventual inaction on the House floor before the session adjourned.

If January were to be designated as Americans of Chinese Descent History Month, it would follow the trend of Black History month in February and Asian American Pacific Islander History month in May. Jinkins said as this pattern continues, the legislature should ensure it is equitable, The Spokesman-Review reported last year.

The bill successfully passed through the Senate committees and floor, and its next stop will be a referral to a House committee and subsequent public hearing. The public hearing has not yet been scheduled.