Bill to protect lawmakers from getting fired passes state House

Staff writerFebruary 13, 2014 

The chambers of the state House of Representatives in Olympia, Wash. are shown on Jan. 3, 2013.(TONY OVERMAN/Staff photographer)

TONY OVERMAN — The Olympian Buy Photo

Elected legislators in the state House want to keep their jobs. No, the other ones.

The state House passed a measure Wednesday that would require employers to grant state lawmakers a temporary leave of absence so they can serve in Olympia.

House Bill 2473 would prohibit employers from demoting or firing elected lawmakers who take a leave of absence to serve in the Legislature. It would also allow members of the Legislature to sue their employers if they believe they have been terminated or demoted due to time spent in legislative sessions.

The proposal comes after a busy year in which lawmakers were in session between January and June of 2013, and returned for another special session in November.

Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, said Wednesday that legislators need the bill to “protect their jobs and protect their ability to serve.”

“We don’t want to create a special class of people who can only afford to be in the Legislature because they have the resources to do so,” Hunt said. “We want to keep this a citizen Legislature of people from all walks of life.”

Rank-and-file members of the Legislature make $42,106 per year.

Lawmakers are scheduled to meet for 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years, but extra sessions are common.

The bill to protect lawmakers’ outside employment passed the House 73-25 Wednesday.

Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, was among those who voted no.

“There are some that are a little uncomfortable with it,” Taylor said before the vote on the House floor.

The legislation was introduced by Marko Liias, an Edmonds Democrat and former House member who was recently appointed to the state Senate.

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