Marko Liias to command state Senate floor action
Last updated 11/22/2017 at Noon
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, will lead Senate floor action as the majority floor leader in the 2018 Legislative session.
Liias represents Mukilteo in the 21st District. The 2018 Legislative session opens in Olympia Jan. 8.
As minority floor leader last session, Liias served in a more reactive capacity for the minority Democrats. But since Democrats won a special election earlier this month in the state’s 45th Legislative District, they now hold the majority in the Senate.
This gives the Democrats and Liias the power to determine which bills will come up for a vote.
“I did debate back in high school and absolutely loved it,” Liias said. “I love debating, and my colleagues have shown they value my debate skills.
“That’s one reason they trusted me with being the floor leader. I have to work hard to make sure we’re making progress and getting things done on time and orderly.”
Liias also will continue to serve on the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Rules Committee, and will assume roles on the Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee.
“Guiding legislation through the Senate is a powerful responsibility and a role that I assume with the utmost respect and humility,” Liias, 36, said.
“At the end of the day, what we do will determine the welfare of Washingtonians in communities across our state. It’s our job now to make sure everything that comes out of the Senate reflects Washington values and priorities.”
He added on his Facebook page: “After four years of gridlock and divisiveness, the people have entrusted Senate Democrats with the majority and a mandate to lead. It’s time to take bold action to strengthen our families, build our communities and safeguard against the dangerous policies we are seeing out of D.C. Let’s get to work!”
In the upcoming Legislative session, he’s hoping that they can get more work done in the assigned two-month period lasting from Jan. 8 to March 8, as there were a few special sessions in 2017 that caused the Legislature to last for roughly four months.
“I’m hoping we can convince the other members to join the rest of the world and work five days rather than the usual three,” Liias said while laughing. “It’s really hard to get things done in just a three-day work week. We all made the decision to run for office, and we need to be putting the people first.
“There’s this increasing public sense that politicians are putting special interests first, but I feel like we’re here to improve the lives of all Washingtonians with things like affordable health care and working on proper public transportation.”
Liias mentioned education as something he hopes to focus on in the upcoming session, and talked about the continued growth of Washington State University’s Everett campus as something he is really happy with in Snohomish County.
“It’s nice that you don’t necessarily have to travel across the state or away from home to get a four-year degree,” Liias said. “Some students are paying for their tuition or helping pay bills at home, and moving away to get their degree really isn’t something that works for them.”
Liias also is hoping to get discussions started regarding making community colleges free.
“That’s not something that will likely get done this year, but I’d like to launch those conversations.”
Liias also believes that more work needs to be done regarding teaching younger children and students how to properly utilize the Internet.
“I call it ‘digital citizenship’ or basically how to properly use the Web,” Liias said. “The antidote for fake news on the internet is teaching people to see what’s real and what’s fake. You fight bad speech with good speech.
“When I was a student, we didn’t have things like Wikipedia, I opened an encyclopedia and knew what I was reading was true. It’s so easy for students now to be led astray online.”
Liias was born at Stevens Hospital in Edmonds (now Swedish Edmonds) and graduated from Kamiak High School in Mukilteo. He received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.
For five years, Liias helped lead a small family business specializing in green residential construction. That business went bankrupt in 2008, when the construction industry was hit hard.
But his membership in the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce as a business owner made him consider public service.
In 2005, at age 24, he was elected to the Mukilteo City Council, where he served for two years. During his time on the council, Liias openly stated his opposition to commercial air service at Paine Field. That effort was ultimately unsuccessful, as in May of this year Propeller Airports, a developer, owner and operator of passenger terminals, broke ground on a new passenger terminal expected to open in 2018.
In January 2008, Liias was appointed to the House of Representatives after the departure of Rep. Brian Sullivan, former Mukilteo mayor and now a member of the Snohomish County Council.
In January 2014, Liias was sworn into the Senate office in his current position. He was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Paull Shin, who resigned for health reasons.
Liias also works as the city of Mukilteo’s policy analyst, a paid position he’s held since summer 2014.
“I have a lot to do with the day-to-day operations of the city,” Liias said. “I have helped make agreements with Waste Management and Comcast for the city.”
Liias believes that his role with the city helps him in the Senate, and that his role in the Senate also helps him while working for Mukilteo.
“When I’m working in Mukilteo, I can help bring the bigger perspective of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Liias said. “I’m close to these services every day, and I’m working on the ground level to help deliver these services to Mukilteo citizens.
“When I’m at the Senate, I can look at issues from broader levels. I hear a lot of innovations in the Senate that I can share with City Hall. I can bring the perspective of struggling to maintain city streets and sidewalks to the State level.”
According to Liias, he does not take a salary from the city of Mukilteo when he serves in the state Legislature.
“I take unpaid leave while I’m in the Legislature,” Liias said during a Mukilteo City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 13. “I work with finance to include that in the budget amount for each year.”
Liias believes that he is a great fit for the city because they’re able to save money when he is away at the Legislature while still accomplishing all the needs that his position with the city requires.
“Mukilteo hired someone knowing they’re getting a three-quarter time position,” Liias said. “Not many people would want that. I’m fully qualified for the job, but I’m saving the city money and helping the budget at the end of the day.”
Liias is heavily involved with a lot of city projects, and says that due to his role in the Senate, he aligns projects around his time in the Senate so larger jobs are taking place while he’s with the city and not away in Olympia.
Liias ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 2016 after the retirement of Treasurer Jim McIntire. He lost to Duane Davidson.
Mukilteo Beacon Editor Brandon Gustafson contributed to this story.