OLYMPIA -- More than 55 Tri-Citians are in Olympia today to meet with state legislators on everything from education to juvenile justice.
It's just part of the sixth annual Latino Legislative Day held at the Capitol campus by the Latino Civic Alliance.
For some of the Tri-Citians, opposing a bill that would require proof of citizenship or legal residency to get a state driver's license is a top priority.
Alfredo Ramirez of Kennewick said that change would affect everyone in the community. It could increase the likelihood of accidents involving an unlicensed driver without insurance.
Those who would no longer be able to get a driver's license wouldn't stop driving because of it, said Dora Morfin, Tri-Cities organizer for Latino Civic Alliance.
And in addition to imposing costs on licensed, insured drivers, Ramirez said it could mean a loss of revenue for the state and insurance companies.
The Latino Civic Alliance is hoping to see about 1,200 people attend part of the day's events, said Ricardo Iniguez, the alliance's executive board chairman. This past year, about 1,000 attended.
The Latino Civic Alliance has a list of legislative priorities for health, K-12 education, immigration, affordable housing, the economy and juvenile justice. Part of the event includes presentations on those topics by representatives of various organizations.
Iniguez said top priorities include stating opposition to both the driver's license bill and another bill that would allow law enforcement and the courts to place civic injunctions on people involved in gangs. They fear the second bill might lead to racial profiling.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and several legislators also are to speak at the event.
But the day is more than just about opposing or supporting bills.
It's a chance to have legislators hear the needs and views of the Hispanic community, Enrique Diaz of Pasco said.
Appointments are set up throughout the day for citizens to speak to their legislators.
Rafael Robles of Pasco said that attending the legislative day also is a way to counteract negative stereotypes associated with the Hispanic community.
It shows legislators and the public that Hispanic citizens are interested in government, he added.
Morfin said it's important for the entire community to be aware of how the legislative process works and what ways they can let their legislators know how they feel about issues and proposed bills.
The legislative day is a way to encourage people to get involved and become an educated voter, Morfin said.
Iniguez said actions during Latino Legislative Day can influence if certain bills pass or fail.
He also sees the event becomes a success because many attendees get to speak with their legislators and get a chance to learn more about the capital.
For more information about Latino Civic Alliance, visit www.latinocivicalliance.org.
* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org