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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Lawmakers from all over the state returned to the Capital this week to begin work. The session officially began at noon Monday, Jan. 8. In even-numbered years, session is 60-days, including weekends and holidays. In order to finish on time, we will need to squeeze a lot of work into a short amount of time.

In addition to approving a supplemental budget, lawmakers are tasked with addressing a recent announcement by the state Supreme Court. The justices supported the legislature's efforts, which fulfilled a mandate to fully fund K-12 education. However, they said the money for teacher and staff salaries approved by lawmakers in 2017 needs to be spent earlier than planned. In the coming weeks, we will be looking at ways to address this issue.

Several other key public policy issues include, net neutrality, gun rights, capital gains tax, voter rights, the governor's carbon tax proposal, the state's construction budget, and a solution for the biggest rural versus urban crisis to face our state in decades, the state Supreme Court's Hirst water-rights decision.

Although we face many challenges, I am committed to working for public policy that will truly make improvements for families, individuals and businesses in our region and state.

Reducing burdens on small businesses

When I came to Olympia, I made a commitment to reduce regulations that stifle innovation and growth. Almost all businesses in Washington state are subject to Business and Occupation (B&O) tax. However, current guidelines for monthly reporting were established by the state Department of Revenue (DOR) nearly three decades ago. These outdated requirements force many service businesses into reporting their tax obligations monthly, rather than quarterly or annually.

That's why I've introduced House Bill 2350. My bill would update DOR's tax liability amounts based on the current inflation rate. By updating this requirement we can make a huge difference in the bottom line for many smaller companies.

Another bill I've sponsored would allow for more small businesses to be exempt from filing a tax return with DOR. House Bill 2351 would allow most businesses whose annual income is $35,000 or less to qualify for an exemption with the department.

Small businesses are the key to our state's economic growth. It is vital we help them grow and reach their full potential. Both of these bills have been referred to the House Finance Committee, where they await a public hearing.

Here are some other bills I've introduced in 2018

Washington farmers produce the food that fills our plates and feeds millions of people around the world. Washington is the third largest exporter of food and agriculture products in our nation. I've introduced a bill that would help retired farmers, or those looking to retire. My bill would allow aging farmers to continue to have their land classified as agricultural, without financial penalties – even after they stop actively working it.

House Bill 2349 would make it easier for farmers to retire, without jeopardizing their future retirement simply because they are no longer able to work their land. Watch my video about this bill.

And finally, I've introduced an anti-trafficking measure. Sex trafficking is a real public safety issue for our children and our communities. We must do more to prevent it. Currently, in addition to other penalties, the fine for the sexual exploitation of children ranges from $1,500 (no prior convictions) to $5,000 (two or more convictions).

My bill targets the “johns” who proposition or solicit these innocent children. House Bill 2348 would mandate a $5,000 fine to be imposed on any person who commits this crime. In fact, it is designed to require the base $5,000 fee even if the offender receives a deferred sentence, typically as part of a plea deal. That means, the court would not be able reduce, waive or suspend payment of this fee.

My bill has been referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and will have a public hearing next week.

Listening, helping, leading

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. Better yet, if you are planning a visit to Olympia, come see me. I welcome your feedback and questions. My contact information is listed below.

It is an honor to serve as your state representative!

Sincerely,


Vicki Kraft

State Representative Vicki Kraft
17th Legislative District
RepresentativeVickiKraft.com
418 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
vicki.kraft@leg.wa.gov
360-786-7994 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000