Here's what we're working towards l View from Olympia

By Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo | Feb 21, 2018

The last few years have been tough. On the heels of the Great Recession, it feels like the needs of regular people - middle-class families like the one I grew up in - have been ignored at the expense of special interests and powerful elites.

Congress has spent more time debating new tax cuts for the wealthy than it has spent focused on how to grow an economy that works for all of us.

As I returned to Olympia this session, I was selected by my colleagues to take on the new role of Majority Floor Leader.

As one of the top ranking members in our new Senate majority, I made it my mission to focus on one goal: putting people first.

Entering the last two weeks of this short legislative session, I am proud to report that we are making progress on important issues facing middle-class families in our community and around the state.

Our first task was to clean up last year’s mess and pass a capital budget.

Due to an unprecedented level of partisan bickering, the Legislature could not agree on a capital budget last year, even after taking a record amount of time in special session.

I am pleased to report that within our first two weeks, our new majority secured a bipartisan agreement and passed a capital budget that Gov. Inslee has already signed into law.

The budget was important for the state and for our district. It makes the largest-ever investment in K-12 school construction, about $1 billion.

It will also fund projects to continue waterfront remediation in Mukilteo, build a new Senior Center in Edmonds, and construct a state-of-the-art STEM facility at Edmonds Community College.

We’ve also passed legislation to finish the task of fully funding our schools.

It’s time to stop paying fines issued by the state Supreme Court, and instead give our kids the quality education they deserve - and on which our economy depends.

I heard loud and clear at our town hall last weekend that the property tax increase Republicans insisted on to fund education is having a crushing effect on some of our households.

I am proud to report that our proposed budget will use the extraordinary revenue brought in from our growing economy to cut more than $400 million from the recent property tax increase without jeopardizing school funding.

At the same time, we will also expand access to the senior and disabled property tax exemption program so that no one is taxed out of their home.

One of my top priorities for several years now has been to address the growing student loan debt crisis in our country.

I am one of more than 800,000 Washingtonians who still owes student loan debt; collectively, Washingtonians owe more than $24 billion.

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 and I want a better path for current and future students.

That is why I have worked hard to pass the Student Loan Bill of Rights.

Senate Bill 6029 will expand consumer protections for student loan borrowers and establish a Student Loan Advocate to help borrowers statewide.

It is only a first step in dealing with this crisis.

As one of seven LGBTQ members of the Legislature, I have a deep and personal interest in protecting the health and lives of LGBTQ youth in schools and in our communities. That is why I have spent the last five years building support to ban so-called “conversion therapy” in our state.

This harmful and discredited practice amounts to torture.

We should value every child for who they are. Not inflict physical and emotional abuse to try and force them to be someone else.

As the Majority Floor Leader, one of the unique aspects of my job is the process of referring every bill that is introduced in the Senate.

This has meant reading through more than 600 bills introduced by my fellow Senators and 312 bills passed by the House over to the Senate.

While this has been a time-consuming task - and I can’t pretend to remember every bill or every detail - it has been a privilege to read firsthand the ideas my fellow legislators have to make our state better. It’s even more encouraging to see the results.

Our new Senate majority has passed legislation that would: ban bump stocks like the one used in the Las Vegas mass shooting, implement same-day voter registration to make it easier to vote, protect women’s health and access to contraception, eliminate the death penalty, reduce health care fraud, and fully fund education.

And that’s just the short list.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that, of the 238 bills the Senate passed in our first 40 days, only five of them moved forward on party-line votes.

I am proud that nearly 98 percent of the bills we have passed have reflected bipartisan compromise. And in the remaining weeks of session, I hope we can find common ground on the five we disagreed on.

I don’t believe that one senator or one session can fully address or solve the cynicism and disgust so many feel about politics.

But I also know that things will not improve unless we work together.

I am proud to be a lifelong resident of the district it is my privilege to represent.

I love our community, and I am committed to doing my part in putting people first and making our state an even better place to live, work and play.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, is a lifelong resident of the 21st Legislative District serving in his fifth session as a member of the Senate.

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