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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We've not yet reached the halfway point of the scheduled 60-day session, and already we're rapidly approaching our first major deadline — house of origin policy committee cutoff. That's this Friday, Feb. 7. Bills that have not passed from their respective policy committees in the chamber where they were introduced are likely dead for the session. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from this cutoff. You can view the legislative deadlines and session calendar here.

Many of us in the Republican minority are working very hard to secure public hearings on our bills and, hopefully, committee passage before the upcoming deadline.

House Finance Committee approves business tax relief bill

I'm pleased to report the House Finance Committee has passed my proposed legislation that would increase the amount a small business could earn before it would have to pay business and occupation taxes. Under House Bill 1738, the filing threshold would be increased to $56,000 in annual gross receipts for service businesses and $36,000 for all other businesses.

Many new small businesses struggle to stay afloat in their first months of operation. This measure would help to give them a running start before state business taxes kick in. It's expected to help about 53,000 taxpayers. If small businesses can keep their money longer, it would help them to reinvest, and hopefully, create more jobs in our state. You can view my committee testimony here.

The measure has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. Another public hearing has been scheduled for tomorrow, Feb. 5 at 3:30 p.m.

Rep. Vicki Kraft testifies before the House College and Workforce Development Committee on House Bill 2089.

Shining the spotlight on college and university budgets

Most college students and their parents have often wondered why tuition is so expensive. It's a question that prompted me to introduce legislation. House Bill 2089 would require the four-year institutions of higher learning to submit their administrative, academic and auxiliary unit budgets to the state's Education Research and Data Center (ERDC) for public display online.

The bill would create a more transparent look at what the four-year institutions of higher education have for expenses and revenue, so we can see that and drill down to the department level costs.

I testified on the measure last Tuesday before the House College and Workforce Development Committee. You can watch that testimony here.

Rep. Vicki Kraft asks lawmakers to vote against a bill that could raise gas prices by 57 cents a gallon.

It's a 'no' on bill that could significantly raise gas prices

We had our first big floor debate of the session last Wednesday. A measure which is a priority of Gov. Jay Inslee, House Bill 1110, would mandate a controversial and costly low-carbon fuel standard in Washington state. The bill would change the makeup of fuel sold in our state, eventually driving up prices by 57 cents a gallon for gasoline and as high as 63 cents a gallon for diesel.

I spoke against the measure on the House floor. . .“The majority of people in Washington state said no to a proposed carbon fee that would have been on fossil fuel emissions. That was I-1631. Fifty-six percent of people in the state of Washington said no and voted that down in 2018.” You can watch my floor speech here.

Despite nearly four hours of debate, the measure passed 52-44, with only five Democrats voting no.

To learn more about this issue, go here.

Despite opposition, K-12 sex ed bills continue to advance

In my first email update of the 2020 session, I said, “Last year, we were able to successfully stop Senate Bill 5395, a measure requested by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal that would have mandated comprehensive sex education in Washington's public schools. This measure would have allowed graphic details to be shared with children as early as kindergarten about sex and discussions about gender identity, completely ignoring the wishes of parents.”

I also voiced my concern about a new mandated sex ed measure, House Bill 2184, which had a public hearing on Jan. 16 in the House Education Committee.

It seems there is movement on both of these very disturbing bills. Senate Bill 5395 passed the Senate on Jan. 22. And the House Education Committee voted today to pass House Bill 2184. Again, both bills seek to force sex education in classrooms as early as kindergarten.

With your help, we continue to fight this battle. Parents should have the right to decide what their children learn and when they learn about these sensitive subjects, not government. I invite you to watch my video on this subject, which explains why I oppose these bills.

My 2020 bills

Here are several other bills I've introduced this year:

  • House Bill 2330 – Agency actions and enforcement: This measure is the result of my meetings this past summer with local business owners who expressed frustration over the immense regulations they are forced to navigate. This measure would make it so businesses would first receive technical assistance to come into compliance with an agency rule/regulation BEFORE the agency imposes fines. In other words, education before enforcement and fines. This measure is awaiting a hearing in the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee. Read my opinion editorial on this issue.
  • House Bill 2331 – Open Public Meetings Act agendas and notices: This government transparency bill that would require public agencies with governing bodies to post the agendas of their meetings online at least 72 hours in advance of the published start time. This would give the public additional time to receive notice. Currently, the requirement is 24 hours. This measure has been referred to the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.
  • House Bill 2332 – Lyme disease treatment: This bill would protect doctors who prescribe long-term antibiotics for Lyme Disease. Currently this is not allowed in Washington, so it's much more difficult for some with this disease to get the treatment they need to get better. This proposal came from a local citizen with the disease and from Lyme disease patients and professionals at a stakeholder meeting I hosted during the interim. An article about this measure was just published on lymedisease.org. The bill is awaiting a public hearing in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
  • House Bill 2333 – Advisory vote descriptions: This measure would require the attorney general to include in the Voter Pamphlet advisory vote descriptions of any tax exemptions/preferences, in addition to taxes included in a bill. It also must include the bill title, along with substantive changes made to the bill from time of introduction to being signed into law. Currently, since only taxes are included, it could be misleading to constituents, as they might think a bill would raise taxes. However, overall in effect, if there is a graduated tax exemption over time, then the overall net effect of the bill may actually be a tax reduction. This was the case with the timber industry bill, which was one of the November 2019 advisory vote items. Many constituents thought the bill raised taxes, not reduced them. My proposal would help constituents have an accurate and complete description of what the bill does. The measure is in the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.
  • House Bill 2872 – Mobile home landlords, rent: This measure would provide partial property tax relief to mobile home park owners in exchange for maintaining affordable rents that are not beyond the cost of inflation. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Finance Committee.

Mental health forum brought community professionals together

On Jan. 7, several days before the beginning of the 2020 legislative session, I held a forum on mental health at WSU Vancouver. Nearly 50 mental health professionals and providers from throughout Clark County attended and discussed the unique needs of our area.

One of my primary objectives was to bring these community professionals into the same room, so they could meet and begin to work with each other on common goals that address local mental health needs. From the feedback I received in a survey by those who attended, the majority felt most panelists had the expertise representative of mental health service providers in the area. Nearly 80 percent said the event opened doors to new contacts for follow-up.

We have great local services. They can be even better when everyone coordinates, works together and directs patients to the services that are most helpful to their needs.

Are you a veteran? Here is some helpful information

There are several special considerations for veterans that our state Legislature has enacted over the years. If you are a veteran, check out this “Free or Reduced Rate Passes and Tax Exemptions” website from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

I am here to serve and represent you!

It's an honor to represent the citizens of the 17th Legislative District in Olympia. Please contact my office any time you have questions or comments on legislation or state government. Let us know if you are planning to come to Olympia so we can arrange a meeting. You'll find my contact information below.

Sincerely,


Vicki Kraft

State Representative Vicki Kraft, 17th Legislative District
RepresentativeVickiKraft.com
436 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