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New laws to take effect in Washington; plus, student loan interest rates double

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BILLS, BILLS, BILLS 

Although Washington state lawmakers labored for months on an operating budget agreement, the Legislature passed more than 300 NEW LAWS this year, many of which take effect at the end of this month. Here are a few examples of recently enacted and soon-to-be enforced legislation:

  • People who have been wrongly convicted in the state of Washington can receive compensation —  at least $50,000 — for each year they spent in prison.
  • Nosy bosses are barred from asking for their employees’ social media passwords at the workplace and during job interviews. 
  • Seafood processors are required to label all fresh, frozen or processed fish and shellfish by their common names, so consumers can make more informed purchases. 
  • Sex education must now include information on sex crimes in Washington and their legal consequences. 

DEANNA PAN

Air Base Dispute

U.S. Air Force officials say a lease payment dispute with the Kyrgyzstan government may force the closure of the Manas Transit Center where local Fairchild air refueling crews now operate in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Air Force Times reports the Kyrgyzstan parliament has voted to end its lease next summer, potentially angling for higher payments. The U.S. reportedly pays $60 million a year to lease the center, but officials now say a more expensive lease may not be feasible.

Scott King, a spokesman for Fairchild Air Force Base, says local KC-135 planes and crews operate out of Manas year-round. He could not provide specific numbers due to security protocols.

Three Fairchild airmen based at the Manas Transit Center died May 3 in a plane crash that remains under investigation. King says local officials planned to monitor the ongoing lease dispute, but they did not have any comment on how a closure might affect Fairchild.

— JACOB JONES

INCREASED INTEREST

Neither Republicans nor Democrats thought the interest rates on student loans should double. But they have anyway. On Monday, INTEREST RATES on subsidized Stafford loans jumped from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

Jim White, dean of Student Financial Services at Gonzaga University, says the increased interest rates means students with the maximum amount of subsidized Stafford loans would pay nearly $4,600 extra over the life of their loan.

In May, the House Republicans had passed a bill similar to Barack Obama’s proposal to permanently tie the growth of student loan interest rates to Treasury rates.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, sent out a press release blaming Democrats for not accepting the proposal in the Senate. The Senate, however, did try to act. On June 6, Senate Democrats tried to pass a bill that would have frozen student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent for the next two years. But the measure, which would have stripped away several tax loopholes, got only with 51 votes, not enough to avoid the threat of a filibuster. That gave Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chance to point fingers of her own.

That doesn’t mean the battle’s over yet. On June 27, Democrats introduced another bill that would retroactively freeze rates at 3.4 percent for a year. Whether it can pass remains to be seen.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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