(360) 786-7640|Marko.Liias@leg.wa.gov

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    Student Loan Bill of Rights passes out of Washington State Senate

Student Loan Bill of Rights passes out of Washington State Senate

February 14th, 2018|

Taking a vital step to address the growing crisis of individual student loan indebtedness, the state Senate today passed legislation to expand consumer protections for Washington borrowers.

Known as the Student Loan Bill of Rights, Senate Bill 6029 would establish a range of provisions designed to protect Washingtonians from deceptive or predatory practices and require student loan servicers to obtain licenses to operate in the state.

“As one of the nearly 800,000 Washingtonians still paying off their college education, I know firsthand the balancing act of trying to afford housing, purchase daily necessities, and save money for the future while dealing with student debt,” said bill sponsor Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood. “We’re still learning what the full impact of this kind of debt will be on our state’s economy, but in the meantime, this legislation will ensure that we are putting people first and giving borrowers the information and tools they need.”

The bill would also establish a Student Education Loan Advocate to aid borrowers, compile data, provide information on student loans, and receive, review, and take action on complaints from borrowers.

“Student loan borrowers deserve to be treated fairly by their loan servicers, and this legislation will help ensure that they are,” said state Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson. “I want to thank Sen. Liias for his leadership on this important issue.”

As of 2016, Washingtonians collectively owe more than $24 billion in student loans. They are part of the 44 million Americans who now owe more than $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, more than the total national credit card debt. Nationally, one in four student loan borrowers are behind in payments. As incomes have stagnated and many states have reduced investments in public higher education, the need for these loans has continued to rise. This rapidly growing debt jeopardizes livelihoods, relationships, and even retirement.

SB 6029 passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 35-13 and now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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    Senate passes bills to boost jobs in Olympic Peninsula and across state

Senate passes bills to boost jobs in Olympic Peninsula and across state

February 12th, 2018|

Two bipartisan bills passed today by the Senate could spur job growth on the Olympic Peninsula and in rural and coastal areas across the state by boosting the timber industry, said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.

Senate Bill 6140, cosponsored by Van De Wege, could create jobs in rural communities by directing the Department of Natural Resources to evaluate state land, forestland, revenue streams and related management methods to make it easier to transact common-sense land swaps and help spur mill activity.

“In past years, the state and our timber businesses have lost revenue on trees that were supposed to be harvested and were not,” said Van De Wege, who voted for both bills. “That’s not only a waste of valuable resources, it squanders opportunities to create family-wage jobs our Olympic Peninsula communities desperately need.”

SB 5450 would add cross-laminated timber to the state building code, making it easier for businesses to incorporate timber dependent technology in residential and commercial construction. In addition to creating a stronger market for wood, the cross-laminated timber provides an environmental benefit by sequestering carbon.

Mass timber products include cross-laminated timber, nail-laminated timber, glue-laminated timber, laminated strand timber, dowel-laminated timber, laminated veneer lumber, structural composite lumber, and wood concrete composites.

“Both of these bills take advantage of lost opportunities to create good jobs in the communities that need them most,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood and the sponsor of SB 5450. “It’s important that we put people first as we work to grow rural and coastal economies across our state.”

Newsletter – Jan. 29

January 29th, 2018|

Dear Neighbors,

What an incredible start to the 2018 legislative session!

I’m proud to say that in our first weeks back in the majority, Senate Democrats have taken significant early action on a broad range of issues. Already we’ve passed legislation to:

  • Expand access to our democracy with a new voting rights act
  • Allow same-day voter registration
  • Shine light on the secret money in our elections
  • Ensure a healthy breakfast for every student
  • Expand college access for DREAMers
  • Ban bump stock trigger modifications

And perhaps most critically, we managed to pass the long-delayed capital budget, which includes the largest-ever investment in K-12 school construction – about $1 billion. With the budget passed, projects for environmental cleanup, housing and infrastructure will finally begin around our state, supporting 19,000 jobs.

Of course, last week was of special significance for the work I’ve been doing in the Legislature for the past five years to expand protections for LGBTQ youth in Washington. I’m proud to report that two of my bills, SB 5722 to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and SB 5766 to prevent bullying of transgender students, both passed through the Senate with significant bipartisan majorities.

For years in person and in testimony, I’ve heard from countless families about the need to make our communities and schools safer for their children. This legislation puts our shared values forward, recognizing the value that LGBTQ youth bring to our society and that we will take every step we can to make Washington inclusive for all.

I cannot thank enough those that bravely shared their stories over the years and my colleagues for their support in this hard won victory. This is what I came to Olympia to fight for.

But as always, many remain ahead and as fast-paced as this session has been, much more awaits as Senate Democrats continue to put people first with our legislative action.

Upcoming Town Halls

As we are quickly approaching the halfway point of this short 60-day legislative session, it’s time for your 21st LD delegation to connect with you back home!

First, on Thursday, February 15th, Rep. Ortiz-Self, Rep. Peterson and I will be conducting a telephone town hall beginning at 6:05 p.m. You can RSVP by going to https://vekeo.com/whdc21/

If you do not receive a call, you can dial in at 877-229-8493 and use the pin number: 116357.

Then, on Saturday, February 17th, we will be hosting an in-person town hall from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The town hall will be in the Great Hall at Meadowdale High School, located at 6002 168th St SW, Lynnwood, WA 98037.

We will continue to share details as the dates draw nearer, but we hope you’ll get it on the calendar and we will see you there!

All my best,

Sen. Marko Liias

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    Limiting non-compete employment agreements would protect innovation, workers’ rights

Limiting non-compete employment agreements would protect innovation, workers’ rights

January 23rd, 2018|

With non-compete agreements used broadly throughout the workforce, Sens. Marko Liias and Joe Fain have sponsored new bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting economic innovation and the rights of workers in a variety of fields and pay brackets. The proposal will be the topic of a public hearing on Thursday in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee.

“Non-compete clauses have become a backdoor inhibitor to the startup spirit that defines our region,” said Liias, D-Lynnwood. “We need to be putting people first, allowing their talents to flourish rather than stifling innovation. This legislation will ensure that the next generation of visionaries have a path forward, rather than barriers created to prevent nonexistent problems.”

Non-compete employment agreements are generally used to restrict an employee’s future job opportunities for a specified amount of time. Employers often cite the need to protect company trade secrets and investments in expensive worker training as the basis for requiring an agreement. Non-competition clauses also significantly limit an employee’s potential economic opportunity and innovation by halting their ability to pursue new ideas and can impose unfair and restrictive penalties on employees, according to the bill’s sponsors.

“Our economy has always been fueled by the desire of entrepreneurs to try new ideas and find a better way of doing things,” said Fain, R-Auburn. “Innovation is critical if we want to drive our economy forward. Demanding overly burdensome and restrictive penalties for an employee’s future can deal a huge blow to the opportunity to pursue the next great invention or idea.”

The legislation would require employers to disclose non-compete agreements before a job offer is accepted. It also disallows future employment restrictions if the job’s salary is less than five times the state’s average weekly wage or if the employee is laid off or let go during a probationary period. Non-compete agreements would not be allowed for part-time jobs, less than 40 hours per work or independent contracts.

According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Treasury, 18 percent of all workers are covered by non-compete agreements, with at least 37 percent of workers asked after accepting a job offer. Many are in place including in some jurisdictions where agreements cannot be legally enforced.

“It’s possible to protect the unique and certain interests of companies and their ability to bring products to market, without stifling innovation and opportunity,” said Fain. “This legislation is a starting place to find the sweet spot between legitimate things that a company should have a right to protect, and the one-size fits all agreements that hurt competition in the workforce.”

Senate passes new protections for LGBTQ youth

January 19th, 2018|

The Washington State Senate today took a significant step to protect LGBTQ youth by passing legislation to ban so-called “conversion therapy” and require school districts to adopt or amend anti-harassment policies to include transgender students.

“It is long past time for Washington to make it clear to our LGBTQ youth that we value their safety and affirm that they too deserve protection as they navigate their young lives,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, sponsor of Senate Bill 5766 and Senate Bill 5722. “I am thankful to my colleagues in the Senate for taking this stand today to put people first and make Washington more inclusive for all.”

One of the seven openly LGBTQ members of the Legislature, Liias and his colleagues have heard from countless families about the need to make our communities and schools safer for their children.

“In the last year, 29 percent of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide, leading to countless tragic deaths that might easily have been saved,” added Liias. “Banning the barbaric practice of ‘conversion therapy’ and taking active steps to reduce bullying, harassment and intimidation will literally save people’s lives.”

In addition to requiring school districts to adopt updated anti-bullying policies, SB 5766 will also create a district-level primary contact for the new measures and direct the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop mandatory anti-harassment training.

SB 5766 passed on a 30-18 vote. SB 5722 passed on a 32-16 vote. They both now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Ban on ‘conversion therapy’ to be heard in Senate

January 10th, 2018|

What’s happening: The Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee will hear legislation to ban the practice of so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ youth in Washington state.

When: 10 a.m. Thursday in Senate Hearing Room 2.

Where you can watch it live: https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2018011104

Brief Summary: Senate Bill 5722 would make it unprofessional conduct for a licensed health care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18.

Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood: “Every major medical organization which has reviewed ‘conversion therapy’ has condemned the practice. It is barbaric to deny young people their identity and we have an obligation to protect our children from so-called ‘conversion therapy.’”

Newsletter – Jan. 8

January 9th, 2018|

Dear Neighbors,

The 2018 legislative session officially convenes today and with Democrats now controlling the State Senate, we’ll be hitting the ground running to embrace new opportunities for a short 60-day session.

Returning to Olympia, I’m reminded again what a privilege it is to serve the 21st Legislative District, the community I grew up in. As our voice in the Legislature I work to ensure that the community which raised me has its voice heard in the halls of the Capitol.

Which is why I’m excited to tell you about a couple of the bills I’ve sponsored that are set to be heard in committee this week.

As you may have seen recently, the Attorney General released a report detailing student-loan indebtedness in Washington state. The results are astounding: 800,000 Washingtonians owe a cumulative $24.4 billion. That’s one-in-seven Washingtonians paying off student debt, including $2.1 billion owed by Washingtonians over the age of sixty.

I’m one of the 800,000 still paying off my loans, so I really understand the economic pressures it can put on individuals trying to plan their future.

On January 11th, the Student Loan Bill of Rights will be heard in the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee.

I introduced this legislation knowing that we must implement safeguards to protect Washingtonians from predatory loan servicers and ensure that those still paying off their debt will have a student-loan advocate at the state level.

Also this week, my bill to ban so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ youth will receive a hearing in the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee.

Every major medical organization which has reviewed “conversion therapy” has condemned the practice. It is barbaric to deny young people their identity and I am proud to sponsor the legislation to ban it in our state.

In 2018, the Senate Democratic Caucus will return the Legislature to effective, transparent governance to produce results for the people of Washington. As the newly elected Floor Leader of the Senate, I am honored to help lead in that cause.

So in that spirit, I encourage you to reach out and connect. I can be reached by phone at 360-786-7640 or by email at Marko.Liias@leg.wa.gov. The work of the Legislature is done best when we work with you.

All my best,

Senator Marko Liias

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    With Democrats in majority, Liias to command Senate floor action

With Democrats in majority, Liias to command Senate floor action

November 14th, 2017|

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, will lead Senate floor action as the majority floor leader in the 2018 legislative session.

As minority floor leader last session, Liias served in a more reactive capacity for the minority Democrats. But since Democrats won a special election earlier this month in the state’s 45th Legislative District, they now hold the majority in the Senate. This gives the Democrats and Liias the power to determine which bills will come up for a vote.

Liias will also continue to serve on the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Rules Committee and will assume roles on the Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee.

“Guiding legislation through the Senate is a powerful responsibility and a role that I assume with the utmost respect and humility,” Liias said. “At the end of the day, what we do will determine the welfare of Washingtonians in communities across our state. It’s our job now to make sure everything that comes out of the Senate reflects Washington values and priorities.”

The 2018 legislative session gets underway in Olympia on Jan. 8.

How media literacy can help students discern fake news

June 7th, 2017|

This PBS NewsHour report during Education Week focuses on media literacy programs made possible by teacher Claire Beach and legislation by Sen. Marko Liias.

To watch the report, click here or on the icon below:

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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.