Washington lawmakers introduce bill recognizing Lunar New Year as a holiday


Washington lawmakers recently proposed a new bill that would recognize the Lunar New Year as a state-wide holiday.

About the legislation: On Jan 9, Rep. My-Linh Thai (D, WA-41) and 15 co-sponsors proposed House Bill 2209, which will require the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs to come up with Lunar New Year programming and resources "that [state] entities may use in planning and structuring their celebrations." The bill moved forward with a public hearing in the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations on Tuesday.

Against anti-Asian hate: Aside from its recognition of the holiday, sponsors of the bill see it as a means to address anti-Asian hate. The problem, which surged nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, remains underreported in parts of Washington state such as in King County.

Previous Bill: HB 2209 follows a similar bill from last year, HB 1516 — also led by Thai — which sought to make Lunar New Year a paid holiday but failed to push through. In comparison, the new legislation has a significantly lower estimated cost on taxpayers’ money, amounting to $10,000 in the first year and $4,000 every two years. HB 1516, on the other hand, had an estimated cost of $5.7 million every two years.

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What critics are saying: Advocacy group Washington Asians for Equality believes the new bill not making Lunar New Year a paid holiday will dilute efforts to spread awareness about the day and leave the decision to celebrate it to schools and government agencies.

"When students take a day off to celebrate Lunar New Year, they and their families take notice. This creates a ripple effect in society and spreads awareness about Lunar New Year," Linda Yang, the group's director, told the Seattle Times.


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