State Representative Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, returns to Olympia today for the 2020 short session. Entering the 60-session, Leavitt has released her legislative agenda tackling some of Pierce County’s biggest challenges and which focuses on increased services and opportunities for children, veterans, families, and Pierce County’s most vulnerable citizens.
“Almost every day, I talk with and hear stories from constituents who are struggling to pay for the rising cost of prescription drugs; retired teachers and corrections officers on fixed incomes facing major increases to their cost of living; and military service personnel and their families who aren’t getting the services they need and deserve. I plan to make every day of the short session count by focusing on the priorities given to me by my constituents,” said Leavitt. “That’s why my agenda will focus on housing needs and behavioral health care improvements, quality education, and keeping families and children safe. We must also do right by workers and enhance and improve services for senior citizens,” she continued.
Leavitt is off to a strong start having already introduced new legislation prioritizing employment opportunities for military spouses (HB 2303), a chief area of concern for the Employment Securities Division and the Washington Department for Veterans Affairs. HB 2303 allows armed forces members or their spouses to practice their profession without a Washington state license or permit if they or their spouse is stationed here, and they have a similar license or permit in good standing in another state. This provides military families stability and a valuable source of income, sidestepping burdensome regulation.
Leavitt has also introduced legislation building on her past efforts to increase public safety and combat human trafficking, which continues to be a problem in Washington state and the rest of the country. Many human trafficking victims end up in plain sight at hotels and motels, and exploitation of victims, many of whom are minors, happens in places where families stay for vacations, or where businesses host conventions. Leavitt’s HB 2320 provides for annual training for hospitality workers who are in a unique position to interact with guests, to identify the signs of human trafficking and obtain the necessary information to report those signs to the national human trafficking hotline or local law enforcement.
One bill coming back from 2019 includes the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retired state employees in the PERS 1/TRS 1 system. Originally funded in the 2019 House budget, the legislation failed to be passed into law. If passed this year, it would codify into law COLA increases for former teachers, corrections officers, school cafeteria workers, park maintenance staff, social workers, and more, who were denied COLA increases for years after the Great Recession. In addition, Leavitt has introduced HB 2189 to ensure that behavioral health care workers who work with criminal defendants also receive COLA increases.
“I am excited to return to Olympia and continue this work, fighting for better opportunities for our military service members and veterans, keeping communities safe from human traffickers, and helping retired seniors struggling to make ends meet,” said Leavitt. “A lot can be done in 60 days if we work together and put people first, and that’s what I am going to do.”
Leavitt has introduced additional legislation regarding solemnization of marriage for military couples, school meals and health centers, new punishments for those perpetuating the opioid epidemic, and protections for minors. Click here for a complete list of legislation offered by Leavitt in 2019-2020.