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Monthly Archives: April 2017

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    Bipartisan majority of Senate condemns Chechnya concentration camps

Bipartisan majority of Senate condemns Chechnya concentration camps

April 20th, 2017|

A bipartisan majority of 27 Washington state senators today introduced a resolution urging peaceable action on the part of diplomatic bodies of the federal government in collaboration with the international community on behalf of victims of homophobic persecution in Chechnya.

“There are reports of 100 or more gay and bisexual men having been abducted and detained at a de facto concentration camp, where many have been beaten, tortured and even killed, and yet many people in our country and around the world are not even aware this is happening,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood and the prime sponsor of the resolution. “If there is any hope of providing relief to those being persecuted and tortured, we must stop standing on the sidelines and work energetically to raise awareness and marshal global pressure.”

Senate Joint Resolution 8012 urges diplomatic bodies and others to advocate to end state-sanctioned detention of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and to provide asylum to LGBT individuals who seek safety.

“Chechnya’s blatant violation of international human rights law is being carried out with the consent of the head of the Chechen government, Ramzan Kadyrov, who denies the very existence of LGBT people in Chechnya,” Liias said. “Chechen officials have denied these reports and made statements to incite hatred based on sexual orientation or gender identity and to encourage violence against LGBT individuals by their neighbors and even their very families.”

The Russian government, during this time, has declined to publicly condemn the actions and has suggested that official complaints of abuse be filed with the same authorities responsible for promoting the violence.

“It is the moral obligation of the United States to ‘work aggressively to advance human rights for everyone,’ in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at his confirmation hearing,” Liias said. “It’s time to back up those words with action.”

The resolution is addressed to the President of the United States, the Secretary of State of the United States, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and each member of Congress from the State of Washington.

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    As Trump holds out, Senate Democrats request AG opinion on requiring presidential candidates’ tax returns

As Trump holds out, Senate Democrats request AG opinion on requiring presidential candidates’ tax returns

April 17th, 2017|

Senate Democrats today requested a formal opinion from Attorney General Bob Ferguson on the state’s ability to condition ballot access on whether presidential candidates release their federal tax returns.

“As millions of Americans fulfill their civic duty this week by filing tax returns, it only makes sense that they should be able to know if there is anything in their president’s tax situation that indicate he might personally benefit from decisions made by his administration,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, whose office submitted the request. “President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns leaves the public with no way of knowing if his actions might benefit his business portfolio or foreign governments or corporations with a financial interest in his businesses.”

In his request to Ferguson, Liias also asked whether the state can enact legislation requiring the secretary of state to decline a presidential candidate’s slate of electors if the candidate or the candidate’s running mate has failed to release federal tax returns. Since November, Liias noted, legislation has been introduced in 26 states that would require any candidate for president to disclose five years of tax returns no later than 50 days prior to a general election. You can read Liias’ full request here.

“Every major party candidate for president in the past 40 years has released their tax returns, with the exception of the current president,” Liias said. “Voters have a right to know of conflicts of interest or how a particular policy change might affect the president’s personal financial holdings.”

Also signing the request were Sens. Sharon Nelson, John McCoy, Sam Hunt, Patty Kuderer, Christine Rolfes, Jamie Pedersen, Rebecca Saldaña, Guy Palumbo, Mark Mullet, Lisa Wellman, Kevin Ranker, Annette Cleveland, Karen Keiser, Maralyn Chase, Jeannie Darneille and Reuven Carlyle.

“This practice dates back to President Richard Nixon who, when he released his returns in 1973, famously said, ‘People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,’ ” Liias said. “People have a right and a need to know whether someone they are considering for president has interests that might conflict with the best interests of the country.”

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    At-risk youth could receive relief through Senate ID bill, budget grant

At-risk youth could receive relief through Senate ID bill, budget grant

April 5th, 2017|

Homeless and at-risk youth could receive critical help as a result of two Senate measures awaiting consideration in the House, Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said today.

Both measures would extend the reach of Cocoon House, a nonprofit that helps homeless and at-risk youth in Snohomish County. One of the measures, the Senate’s capital budget, passed unanimously late last week and would provide a $2 million grant to Cocoon House.

“Cocoon House does an amazing job of making the most of a dollar in helping area youths, and these measures will enable them reach even more people in need,” Liias said. “I can’t imagine this money being put to a more valuable purpose than to help young people in our community who are struggling either because they lack basic resources or lack an ID that would enable them to access those resources.”

Among its many services to youth, the Cocoon House provides emergency supplies, hygiene packs, food packs and access to housing and local resources. It also provides short- and long-term housing to homeless young people ages 12 to 17 and their children.

“The funds we receive from the state can mean the difference between hope and hopelessness for a lot of kids,” said Julio Cortes, the public relations manager of Cocoon House, a nonprofit based in Everett. “These funds will be maximized and help to break the cycle of homelessness in our communities.”

The other measure awaiting a vote in the House, Senate Bill 5382, is sponsored by Liias and would enable Washingtonians under the age of 18 who have no primary address to purchase an identification card at cost, or about $10, instead of the standard $54 fee.

“Cocoon House works with youth every day who struggle to get connected to resources because they lack an ID,” Cortes said. “Sen. Liias’ bill is going to have a positive, very real and direct impact on youth experiencing homelessness in our communities. With access to IDs, doors for youth will open and give them a better chance to become successful adults.”

That bill awaits an up-or-down vote on the House floor, having passed out of the House Transportation Committee, while the capital budget must be further negotiated between the chambers. Liias said the unanimous passage of the budget in the Senate bodes well for negotiations.

“We often hear people say that Democrats and Republicans can’t work together, especially in today’s polarized culture, but this budget proves the opposite,” he said. “Now we need to build on this good will moving forward.”