Workforce Education Investment Act: Jobs and Opportunities for Washington Students
Washington Democrats proposed a budget that includes significant investments in financial aid and workforce education for Washington students.
The Washington Workforce Education Investment Act renames the State Need Grant as the Washington College Grant and expands the program by adding $230 million to fully fund and increase eligibility. It also allocates over $100 million to invest in services that connect students with degrees, certificates, and apprenticeships, leading to high-demand jobs like nursing, engineering, and computer science.
A targeted Business and Occupation Tax on specific sectors, like the technology industry, provides the needed funds for these higher education investments. Some business leaders from these sectors, such as president of Microsoft Brad Smith, support and endorse this revenue package as a way to develop a skilled work force for high-demand and high-wage jobs.
ASK SHARON: Data Privacy and Consumer Protections
As a technology leader on the national and global stage, Washington recognizes the importance of balancing consumer privacy and economic benefits.
In fact, a citizen’s right to privacy is included in our state Constitution (Article I, Sec. 7).
The increasing volume and variety of personal data collected, stored, and analyzed has the potential for great benefits to human knowledge, technological innovation, and economic growth, but it can also harm individual privacy and freedom.
I believe we, as a state, must preserve your trust and confidence that your personal data will be safeguarded, so it’s time to pass laws that protect consumers while also supporting flexibility and the free flow of information.
We’re currently working on a bill to tackle this issue, but with so many ideas and points of view on the table, reaching consensus is proving to be a challenge.
Click on the image below to watch my latest Ask Sharon video to see where we are in this process.
Debt Reform Bills
It is a challenging time in America with vast economic disparities between the wealthiest and the poorest, and a serious lack of resources for many families. Forty percent of Americans cannot afford an unexpected expense of $400 or more and another 11 percent live at or below the federal poverty level. On top of these problems, Washington also has some of the harshest debt collection practices in the country.
House Democrats are addressing post-judgment interest rates, wage garnishment limits, medical debt, statute of limitations on debt collection, and pocket service.
Democrats propose lowering the maximum allowed post-judgment interest rate from 12 to 9 percent and exempting more of a person’s earnings from wage garnishment so they won’t be forced into poverty or even homelessness over a debt. The proposals also include a response to medical debt, the top cause of bankruptcy in the United States, by ensuring debt collectors cannot report medical debt to credit agencies for 120 days. This would give people the necessary time to make arrangements without damaging their credit.
Other parts of the Democratic proposals end unfair practices around extending the statute of limitations on debt collection and using a process called “pocket service” to trick people into default judgments against them.
Gift cards should not expire—just like cash
You likely have a gift card in your wallet right now or maybe a forgotten gift card with a couple bucks left on it laying around somewhere. Just like unspent cash, that gift card—forgotten or not—should be yours forever. Currently, our state law allows gift cards to expire or have a dormancy fee subtracted from the remaining total on the card under certain circumstances.
House Bill 1727 will let you keep all the money on your gift cards by prohibiting expiration dates and fees for dormancy or inactivity. I believe this is a good consumer protection measure, since most people consider gift cards to be the same as cash and may not even realize their funds could expire or face fees.
This legislation passed both chambers almost unanimously and is headed to the governor’s desk.
This legislative session will adjourn on April 28, that’s just in a couple of weeks, and this is when things move really quickly between chambers.
Remember you can keep up with everything we’re doing in Olympia through TVW, not only on your TV, but also online. Click on the image or scan the code for more information on how to access this great resource.
Thank you for reading my newsletter. If you need more information on any of the issues discussed here, or on any other legislative matter, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.