University Place Patch
Pierce County Benefits From State Budget Plan

“Building new facilities and repairing others is a fantastic use of state resources and contributes to our ability to invest in our community and technical colleges. I am proud that, as vice chair of the College and Workforce Development Committee, I could advocate for projects at Pierce College, Tacoma Community College, and at UW Tacoma,” said Leavitt. “The additional funding for the Military Department at JBLM and Camp Murray showcases our commitment to our military readiness for defense and emergency response. I am also proud University Place will see construction on a new project on Bridgeport Way West.”

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Tukwila Reporter
National Guard could see pay bump for wildfire response

OLYMPIA — State representatives passed a bill in a 94-0 vote on Friday to increase the pay of National Guard members for their wildland fire response duty.

House Bill 1137 is co-sponsored by 15 bipartisan representatives and introduced by Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-Lakewood. The bill was requested by the state Military Department.

“Washington has a wildfire crisis,” said Leavitt at the floor hearing. “People are losing their property, their lands and even their lives.”

According to Leavitt, the state hit a record number of wildfires last year, resulting in 440,000 acres burned. The National Guard has been assisting in wildland fire response, stemming from the increase in fires, she explained.

The legislation aims to update the pay structure for wildland fire response so that it is equal to other state agencies handling wildfires. The director of the state Military Department would be responsible for establishing the pay structure, subject to approval by the Office of Financial Management.

“In 30 years, we have not updated the compensation statute for our National Guard members,” Leavitt said. “We are failing them.”

National guard members are paid less than minimum wage to protect our wildlands and homes, she said. HB 1137 would require pay and allowances equal to that of the United States Armed Forces or state minimum wage.

The measure was Leavitt’s first bill to be passed by the House. The companion Senate bill, SB 5196, will be considered next.

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The News Tribune
890 assaults against staff, 9 months, 1 hospital. That’s intolerable. This small step could help

House Bill 1931, introduced by freshman Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-University Place), would raise standards and increase the frequency of violence-prevention planning, training and record-keeping at all health-care facilities in Washington. It was scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday in the House Appropriations Committee.

The proposal, along with a companion bill in the Senate (SB 5912), recognize the risks that attend the medical profession as a whole. Health-sector workers are at least four times more likely than the average U.S. worker to face serious on-the-job violence, according to federal statistics; assailants can range from a vengeful gang member outside an emergency room to a distraught family member at a nursing home.

But the bill, while not limited to Western State, was drafted with Washington’s largest psychiatric institution in mind — and rightly so. The hospital’s safety record and quality of care have received such poor marks from federal regulators that, after three years of monitoring, they yanked its certification last summer, along with $53 million in funding.

Violence-prevention plans are nothing new; they’ve been de rigueur in Washington health-care settings for two decades. Leavitt’s bill would require they be updated every three years with employee input and an annual review of violent encounters, rather than a formulaic one-time plan that doesn’t adapt to changing workplace conditions.

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US Army
Proposed state legislation could provide Guardsmen equal pay during state activations

OLYMPIA, Wash. – When members of the Washington National Guard are called to assist crews fighting growing wildfires across our state, they don the same uniform as fellow firefighters. They’ve been trained and certified to fight on the front lines. And they stand side-by-side with professionals from other state agencies to ensure our communities remain safe.

Yet members of the Washington National Guard are often paid less — sometimes even less than the state’s minimum wage — than others who perform the same grueling and dangerous work.

Rep. Mari Leavitt and a group of state representatives from across Washington are pushing to change that with House Bill 1137. If approved, the legislation would ensure Washington National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are paid fairly while performing firefighting duties, and no less than minimum wage during other state activations.

On Jan. 23, 2019, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general of the Washington National Guard and Scott Humphrey, Vice President, National Guard Association of Washington testified during a public hearing in the House Committee on Housing, Community Development & Veterans.

“In 1989 the Legislature agreed to pay lower-level Guardsmen on State Active Duty 1.5 times the federal minimum wage,” said Daugherty. “Back then the state minimum wage was $3.85. The federal minimum was $3.80. Today there is a much greater disparity.”

Currently the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, while the state’s minimum wage is $12 an hour. Using the outdated formula established 30 years ago, lower level Guardsmen earn just under $11 an hour while supporting state disaster response. The proposed legislation would set minimum pay for State Active Duty to match either the state’s minimum wage or, during fire-fighting missions, the rate established by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, whichever is greater.

“They are performing state work — while earning less than the state minimum wage,” said Daugherty.

Fighting wildland fires has become a yearly occurrence for the Washington National Guard. In the summers of 2014 and 2015 the Guard responded during the worst wildfire seasons in state history. The governor activated the Guard again in 2017 and 2018 with more than 1,000 members fighting wildfires during the entire month of August.

“Members of the National Guard are regular people, with regular jobs, working to provide for their families,” said Leavitt. “When we take them away from those jobs and pay them a lower wage than state minimum wage it hurts them and their families.”

Humphrey, representing the members of the National Guard Association of Washington also provided support for the bill.

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Educator, PTSA Mom, Business Owner and Former Human Services Administrator Mari Leavitt Announces Campaign for State Representative

University Place community leader will challenge Republican stalwart Dick Muri in rematch of hotly contested 2016 race

University Place—Mari Leavitt, a longtime education leader, PTSA mom and small business owner with her husband Drew, has announced that she will run for the State House in District 28. Leavitt, a Democrat, will challenge 20-year Republican officeholder Dick Muri. Despite a late entry to challenge Muri in 2016, Leavitt’s campaign became one of the most closely watched in the state. With an early start this year coupled with the ideological partisanship in Trump and Republicans in Washington, DC and Olympia, Leavitt believes the electoral environment in 2018 is different.

“Every day we are confronted with policies from Congress and local Republicans that undermine middle class and working families. They’re eroding the safety net for seniors and veterans, and making the future more expensive and more difficult for our kids,” said Leavitt. “We desperately need new independent-minded leadership to restore balance and common sense to our policies and politics.”

Leavitt has worked for nearly two decades in the South Puget Sound to expand education and career training opportunities at four year and technical colleges. After serving as Deputy Director of Pierce County’s largest human services agency, she returned to higher education. Leavitt is currently working to make campuses more equitable and safe—addressing sexual assault and other threats to students seeking a college degree.

“I’ve spent my career working to help Pierce County residents from all walks of life achieve their potential—from displaced workers and vets to high school grads pursuing their dreams, to families struggling with homelessness or a loved one with addiction,” said Leavitt. “This is the role of government—to invest in people, help them gain a foothold, create a level playing field for economic success.”

In contrast, Leavitt points to actions by Olympia Republicans—continuing to deny the need for additional school funding, at odds with community and technical college expansion, and even opposed mental health funding as symptoms of the divisive politics gripping that party’s elected officials.

“Voters of all political stripes want to do right by students, seniors, veterans and their families, and the vulnerable,” said Leavitt. “But sadly, in an era of winner-take-all politics local families are paying a high price for partisan gains. Low income families will be paying more in taxes, our schools are still underfunded, and we’re handing out corporate tax breaks instead of fixing our congested roads and highways.”

In addition to bread and butter issues like education, taxes and transportation, Leavitt is alarmed by the increasingly vocal efforts to roll back basic women’s health and family planning—including mandates for contraception and other established policies.

“I cannot believe that in 2018 we are debating whether employers should cover contraception for women in the workforce,” said Leavitt. “These terrible policies would harm women and families across the region—and the nation—yet some politicians would impose their narrow ideology on the majority of our workforce and population.”

Unlike 2016, when Leavitt entered the race in late May, she believes a January start will allow more time to meet with voters and community leaders.

“I am excited to have a real dialogue with my neighbors here in the 28th,” said Leavitt. “I love that our district is made of diverse and hard-working residents that serve each other daily and care deeply about strengthening our neighborhoods. I plan to use what I learn and have learned from people in our district to bring positive leadership to the State. We have many challenges facing our communities, and I look forward to bringing back community driven solutions and uniting around shared local values.”

Leavitt grew up in a military family and settled in South Pierce County after her father was stationed at what was then Ft. Lewis. She and her husband Drew together own a local orthodontia practice and are raising children in University Place. They have a son serving in the U.S. Air Force, and the youngest two are adopted from foster care.

“In many ways, my family is an amalgam of so many here in the district,” said Leavitt. “We’re from a proud military family, active in our public schools, and work hard to create jobs and give back to the community we serve. It’s a foundation of local values and life experience we need in Olympia to better serve our growing, dynamic region.”

Join the team to support Mari