OLYMPIA – Two bills aimed at expanding school nutrition programs and protecting student loan borrowers from predatory business practices gained new life in the Legislature today during the first special session of 2017.
“Sending these bills over to the Senate, again, underscores the overwhelming bipartisan commitment we have in the House to ensure hungry kids have breakfast in the morning,” said Stonier. “Lawmakers are also showing our commitment to protecting student loan borrowers from malicious scams and deceptive business practices.”
HB 1508: The Washington Kids Ready to Learn Act
Hungry students do not achieve the same level of academic success as those who eat healthy meals for breakfast. As poverty and homelessness among children has increased, so has the number of students who go without meals in the morning.
“We have high expectations of our students in Washington state,” said Stonier. “When we have those high expectations of our students, teachers, and staff, we have to be sure kids are arriving to school ready to learn.”
Nearly 300,000 kids in Washington state live in food–insecure homes and almost half of Washington’s 1.1 million public school students qualify for free and reduced price meals at school. Washington state has nearly 40,000 homeless students.
Breakfast After the Bell is a program that offers nutritious meals to students without interrupting instructional time. HB 1508 would expand Breakfast After the Bell to more schools in Washington state.
The bill was approved by a vote of 81-11 in the House of Representatives and will now go to the Senate for its consideration.
HB 1440: The Washington Student Education Loan Bill of Rights
The Washington Student Education Loan Bill of Rights would prohibit harmful business practices by student loan servicing companies and third-party loan modification companies such as cutting off communication with a borrower, reporting inaccurate information to credit bureaus, and encouraging borrowers to waive their legal rights.
“Some bad actors have received attention for not providing quality service to borrowers,” said Stonier. “Student borrowers expect a level of customer service that helps them repay their loans. With the passage of this bill, we can protect our students in Washington state.”
According to the state Attorney General’s office, hundreds of complaints have been filed against student loan servicing companies and third-party loan modification companies over questionable operating procedures and debt readjustment scams that prey on students struggling to make their loan payments.
HB 1440 would improve fairness, transparency, and accountability in the student loan system.
The legislation would also create a Student Education Loan Ombuds within the Washington State Student Achievement Council. The ombuds would be responsible for fielding complaints from student borrowers and helping borrowers better understand their rights and responsibilities under their loan agreement.
HB 1440 was approved by a vote of 68-24 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The Legislature is currently in a special session to finish the state’s operating and capital budgets. In addition to the budgets, both chambers typically reapprove priority bills during special sessions that died in the opposite chamber during the regular session.