Minnesota Rep. Hodan Hassan looked out upon the crowd of Somali Americans in a basement room at the state Capitol building.

"Today is a big day," she said. "I have not seen this many Somalis in the Capitol."

"There's more upstairs," Nimco Ahmed, president of the Somali American Coalition, told her with a smile.

Tuesday marked the first Somali Day at the Capitol, drawing hundreds of Somali Minnesotans to St. Paul to highlight their cultural and economic contributions to the state and lay out their legislative agenda.

Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, encouraged them to show up every day because legislators here make decisions about their lives, their businesses and their money. "We need your support, we need your alliance, we need your encouragement," she said.

Here are some of the top priorities Somali American leaders said they want from the Legislature:

  • Funding for the Somali Museum of Minnesota. Museum leaders said they are asking for $6.9 million from the state bonding bill and $1 million in legacy funding. They want to use it for the purchase and redesign of a larger space than their current building in Minneapolis that can fit their collections and allow them to run more programs.

"By funding the Somali museum and these other amazing Somali nonprofits in our state, we can help ensure that the rich cultural heritage of the Somali people is preserved for generations to come," said Mohamoud O. Mohamed, the museum's artistic director.

  • Expanded legislation against hate crimes. The House recently passed legislation that mandates that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights collect information from community organizations, school districts and individuals on racially motivated attacks and analyze the data. The measure is designed to offer a fuller picture of racially biased incidents than the current system, in which law enforcement decides to classify an incident as a hate crime.

That's especially important to some Somali Americans after two of their mosques faced arson attacks last month. "One of our priorities today is passing the anti-hate crime bill … That level of hatred will not be tolerated in our great city and in our great state," said Ahmed Anshur, board member of the Somali American Coalition.

  • Greater protections for Uber and Lyft drivers. Leaders called for the passage of legislation that improves working conditions for Minnesota's rideshare drivers, many of whom are Somali Americans. "Too many drivers who are people of color have been subjected to unfair treatment and compensation over the years," said Farhia Gabeyre, a board member of the Somali American Coalition. "It is time for fair wages, affordable benefits and other worker protection rights of our drivers."

The proposal requires transportation network companies to maintain insurance on a driver's behalf that covers injuries on the job — those that are not already automatically covered by auto insurance — for up to $1 million in medical costs. Compensation would be at least $1.85 per mile and 25 cents per minute while the driver is transporting passengers.

  • Resources for the opioid crisis among Somali Americans. Several East African recovery advocates called for more funding to support members of their community trying to get sober from opioids. "There are so many communities that are getting so much support because they advocate for [themselves]," said Abdirahman Warsame, founder and executive director of Generation Hope, a nonprofit that works to prevent and reduce opioid use among people of East African descent. "We can't struggle in silence."