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Should Washington State Recognize César Chávez Day?

File photo of Cesar Chavez speaking at the Delano UFW -- United Farm Workers rally in Delano, California, June 1972.

In California, March 31 is a legal holiday. Schools and government offices are closed for César Chávez Day.

In Oregon this year, the governor made it an optional observance for community service. Now in Washington state, some lawmakers want to recognize the birthday of the farmworker union founder and civil rights leader, but not make it a legal holiday.

"I think that it is important to recognize his contributions,” said Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, the sponsor of the César Chávez Day legislation. “Simply put, you don't get the day off. You don't get paid. It is a day of recognition just like we do with disabled veterans, or Juneteenth, or Day of Remembrance."

Recognition of César Chávez Day passed the Washington state House easily last month. But Hudgins said he's concerned because the measure appears to have stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate. The only senator on the record so far as opposed, Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, declined to comment Monday through a spokesman.

"We may have some differences of opinion on this side as to whether that individual notable leader should be recognized when so many other equally notable leaders have yet to be recognized," said state Representative Jeff Holy, R-Spokane, during House floor debate last month. After explaining the mixed feelings of some lawmakers, Holy ended up voting in favor of the Chávez Day recognition.

If César Chávez Day dies in the Washington Senate, it wouldn't be the only recognition to fall by the wayside. This winter, the Washington Legislature also entertained a proposal to recognize the fourth Saturday in July as "national day of the cowboy." That measure passed out of committee, but never came up for a vote on the state Senate floor.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.