Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we continue through Day 24 of the scheduled 105-day legislative session, I wanted to take a few minutes to give you an update on my bills and emerging issues in the Legislature.
An attack from the left
You may be aware that Democrats in both the House and Senate have much larger majorities this year. This has seemed to embolden them on a number of fronts. We're seeing more bills that would punish you for owning firearms and ammunition, more bills that would separate you from your hard-earned dollars — including a capital gains income tax, carbon tax, increased business taxes and increased taxes on real estate. And there are more bills that would hurt small businesses and those who are self-employed.
Help for small businesses
Rather than attacking the breadwinners and job creators in our state, we should be getting government out of the way and promoting economic growth.
For my part, I've introduced House Bill 1738. This is a measure that would increase exemptions from the state's business and occupation (B&O) tax to help our state's small businesses. Under my proposal, the B&O tax would be exempt for those whose gross business income is under $35,000 per year or $56,000 annually for persons generating at least 50 percent of their taxable income through business activities. The measure is awaiting a hearing in the House Finance Committee.
Third bridge would help our local economy
Another way to boost our economy is by relieving traffic congestion on the I-5 corridor between Vancouver and Portland, which is a major route for our commuters and freight community.
The governor and a handful of legislators believe the only solution is returning to the failed Columbia River Crossing project, with light rail and/or mass transit. I disagree, and I told that to the governor in a letter I sent to him in December.
Let's be clear. We can spend millions to expand lanes on an I-5 bridge replacement — but the outcome will be the same: bumper-to-bumper traffic. That's because the freeway comes to a bottleneck on the south side of the bridge heading into Portland. Clark County voters have repeatedly rejected bringing light rail (and all of its financial problems) over the bridge from Portland. And a recent survey showed 94 percent of commuters in Washington prefer to drive. Simply put, most Southwest Washington commuters are not going to trade their cars for a slower, expensive, subsidized train or other mass transit that is more inconvenient and doesn't meet their schedules.
There's a better solution: A third bridge that would help to divert traffic directly off the I-5 bridge. I have introduced House Bill 1835, which would provide $300,000 to hire an independent consultant to evaluate current options for an additional bridge or other connection west of I-5 between Southwest Washington and Oregon. This would help us move ahead with an option that would be more effective toward reducing traffic than just replacing the I-5 bridge. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Transportation Committee.
Saving our kids from sex trafficking
According to Shared Hope International, an estimated 293,000 children in the U.S. are in danger of being sexually trafficked. The I-5 corridor from Vancouver, B.C. through Vancouver, Washington and down to Los Angeles is a major transport route of victims.
To fight sex trafficking, I have introduced two bills:
- House Bill 1082 would require a massage or reflexology therapist to carry their driver's license or enhanced ID on or near their person while at work. That way, law enforcement could verify the therapist's certification matches the photo ID and that they're a legitimate practitioner. Unfortunately, there are establishments in our area and across the state that may look like a massage or reflexology business on the outside, but inside, sex trafficking is actually taking place. This bill would assist law enforcement officers in addressing these situations more effectively. The measure passed the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. It is now in the Rules Committee, awaiting to be pulled to the floor for a vote. Read more about this bill and the background behind it in my news release.
- House Bill 1836 would add a mandatory $5,000 fee to the end user who is convicted of committing sex trafficking offenses with a minor. This measure awaits a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee.
Other Kraft bills
Two other bills I've prime sponsored are also moving through the process:
- House Bill 1736 – This bill would provide a sales and use tax exemption on adaptive agricultural equipment to a veteran or service member with a disability, or a farm owner who employs a veteran or service member with a disability. The exemption is $5,000 per remittance for a maximum of $10,000 per person per year. A public hearing was held Wednesday in the Housing, Community Development and Veterans Committee.
- House Bill 1737 – Some cities have made it so that if you, the homeowner, sign an agreement for utility services, such as water, you've automatically opted in for future city annexation. This would prohibit that in the contract and preserve homeowner's annexation rights. This measure awaits a hearing in the House Local Government Committee.
Stay in touch, stay involved!
Policy committee cutoff is Feb. 22. Between now and then, many committee meetings and public hearings will be held. This is the time to be heard, speak out and let me know what you think about pending legislation. Please call, write, email or visit my office in Olympia with your concerns and comments. I always enjoy hearing from people in the district. My contact information is below.