The Suburban Times
Representative Mari Leavitt Announces 2020 Legislative Priorities

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.

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Suburban Times
Rep. Leavitt says we can do better for our soldiers, veterans and their families

Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-University Place) said she’ll use her appointment to the Joint Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs to push for reforms.

“Drive anywhere in this beautiful state and you’ll see how intertwined we are with the military,” said Leavitt, who grew up as part of a military family. “We are home to major Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard facilities, and many soldiers make Washington state their permanent home when they retire. That’s why it’s so important that we get this right for our soldiers and veterans.”

Washington ranks in the top seven states for the number of active-duty military personnel, beating out far larger states such as New York.

“It’s important that we focus on such matters as barriers to work and economic opportunity, cybersecurity, behavioral health and veterans suicide prevention, military partnerships, transition and outreach, training and support for military families,” Leavitt said.

The joint committee includes lawmakers in the House and Senate from both parties. In 2018, it tackled topics such as state benefits for veterans, support for service members deployed overseas, GI Bill participation, pension benefits for reserve and guard members and veterans suffering from homelessness.

“The issues facing soldiers and veterans aren’t simple, partly because we can’t control what the federal government and military decide to do,” Leavitt said. “It’s our duty to take care of everything we can from the state side of things, whether it’s by legislation, funding in the budget or cooperation with federal lawmakers and officials. And the work this committee does is critical to military members, their families and the communities around our bases.”

The committee was established by law (Revised Code of Washington 73.04.150), with information about meetings, agendas and reports available online here:

Leavitt also serves on the House committee that focuses on veterans’ issues and as vice chair of the bipartisan House Veterans and Military Families Caucus.

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The Suburban Times
Mari Leavitt Named 2019 TCC Distinguished Alumnus

Tacoma Community College is honored to recognize Mari Leavitt as the 2019 TCC Distinguished Alumnus.

A Lincoln High School graduate, Leavitt earned her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree from TCC and was recognized as a TCC Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year. She went on to earn her B.A. and M. Ed. from Western Washington University and her Ph.D. in Community College Leadership from Oregon State University.

At TCC, Mari Leavitt (then Mari Hyzer) served as Associated Students of Tacoma Community College (ASTCC) President. As a member of student government, she was involved in securing funding for the Building 11 Opgaard Student Center. She prioritized student involvement, encouraging students to participate in ASTCC, vote, volunteer, and contact legislators. She brought legislators to campus to talk to students, organizing a successful tour for local representatives. During her time at TCC Leavitt developed an appreciation for Washington’s community and technical college system that would strongly influence her life’s work.

Leavitt has remained a steadfast community college advocate throughout her professional career, which includes working for nearly twenty-one years in the community college system, including time spent at TCC and Pierce College. Leavitt also worked as Assistant Director of Integrative Prevention & Education/Title IX Administrator at The Evergreen State College. She currently serves as a State Representative for the 28th District, where she continues to advocate for community and technical colleges and students as Vice Chair of the College & Work Force Development Committee.

Leavitt was nominated by a TCC employee who first knew her as the neighbor who encouraged her to go back to school and re-enter the workforce.

“I was a stay at home mom in our community and Mari was a huge encouragement to me when I shared that I wanted to enter back into the workforce and in particular that I wanted to work at TCC,” reads the nomination. “Her love for higher education and her students was infectious and I wanted to be part of that world. She encouraged me to get my master’s degree and showed me that I could achieve that dream while still being a great mom to my children. She still inspires me with her drive and passion for our community.”

Leavitt will be honored at the 10:00 a.m. TCC commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 15, 2019. Commencement will be held on the TCC Tacoma campus in the TCC gymnasium, building 20.

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The Suburban Times
New State Transportation Budget to Improve I-5, DuPont-Steilacoom Road and more

Drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians will see new projects along their daily commute thanks to significant investments in the state Transportation Budget. $414 million is allocated for 28th District projects over the next decade, including I-5 improvements near Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Tacoma Narrows Bridge sales tax deferral.

The state Transportation Budget funds transportation-related projects all across Washington and was approved by a bipartisan vote of 96-2 on Sunday. Reps. Christine Kilduff and Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, advocated for a variety of projects, including:

  • $332 million for I-5 improvements including a new lane between Thorne Lane and the Mounts Road Interchange.
  • A planned $57.6 million payment to defer all sales tax payments on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to cut down on the need for increased tolls over the next 13 years.
  • Almost $8 million for Tacoma Narrows Bridge maintenance.
  • $4 million for DuPont-Steilacoom Road lane construction in both directions.
  • $2 million for curb, gutter, sidewalk, and street lighting along Veterans Drive and Vernon Ave for the Lake City Business District.
  • $1 million for railroad crossing improvements at train noise mitigation at the 6th avenue/Titlow & South 19th street railroad crossings.

“The bipartisan, cooperative approach to how we get Washington moving is an example of what can be done when lawmakers work together,” said Kilduff. “Our region will see increased jobs, economic vitality, and families able to get to where they are trying to go safely. I am especially pleased that once again the Legislature has recognized the value in keeping tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from going up.”

I-5 improvements to add lanes near JBLM should reduce chronic traffic congestion through the corridor, with safer interchanges and improved traffic flow.

“Commuters to and from JBLM need the new lanes to cut down on their travel times and move around the county,” said Leavitt. “The highway, roadway, and pedestrian and bicycle projects in our region provide pathways for families to get where they need to go, how they want to get there. Projects like the DuPont-Steilacoom road improvement project will take big steps toward relieving congestion for local commuters.”

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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.”

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