Why Olympia Might Matter to You
Will von Geldern

January 4, 2019

During the first few months of each year, we have a unique opportunity to advocate for micro-entrepreneurs. That’s because this is the time of year when our elected representatives head down to the state capitol in Olympia to make important decisions about our state’s laws and budget that affect our lives every day.

In Washington, we have a “citizen legislature” – this basically means that our state senators and representatives are only employed part-time. It also means that nearly all of them have other jobs as small business owners, lawyers, nonprofit leaders, and many other professions. In January, these legislators travel to Olympia every week for 3-4 months to finalize a state budget and debate new laws and policies. If you live in Washington, you can find your state House and Senate representatives on this site.

We have spent the last year listening to the needs of Ventures entrepreneurs at community meetings, surveys, one-on-one meetings, and our Raise Your Voice workshop this past fall. Based on your input, our team is laser-focused on four ways to help our clients during the 2019 legislative session.

1. $1 million for microenterprise

Like Ventures, nonprofit organizations in both urban and rural areas of Washington State provide high-quality training, coaching, and access to capital for small business owners with limited resources. Although this support makes the difference between economic insecurity and financial stability for thousands of entrepreneurs in our community and across the state, just $250,000 of the state’s $40+ billion budget is set aside for “technical assistance” for micro-entrepreneurs.

That doesn’t seem fair. That is why we are asking the legislature to support a $1 million investment in funding in the 2019-2020 biennial budget. Contact us today to learn how to support this campaign, or reach out to your legislators via email or social media to let them know that you support this investment!

2. The Working Families Tax Credit

An extra $350 at tax time could provide a much-needed boost for everyone – and this is especially true for Ventures entrepreneurs. Just like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Working Families Tax Credit would give individuals and families within these income guidelines a rebate on their taxes. Ventures supports this proposal because it would level the playing field in our state’s tax system and help our entrepreneurs achieve the dream of financial security.

We are proud to partner with the Washington Budget and Policy Center, the Washington State Labor Council, the Statewide Poverty Action Network and many others to support this proposal – and you can support this campaign by signing up for our advocacy email list and following along on social media with the hashtag #WAWorkingFamiliesTaxCredit. If your state representatives are on Twitter and Facebook, these are particularly good ways to reach out to them.

3. Legalize home cooking

Today, Washington State’s “cottage food” laws allow our entrepreneurs to prepare and sell certain foods in their home kitchens. Unfortunately, this list is very restrictive and creates unnecessary barriers for entrepreneurs in underserved communities. We are asking the legislature to reform these laws and create a process that allows entrepreneurs to safely start micro-scale food businesses out of their homes.

Our proposal will allow micro-entrepreneurs to come out of the shadows, participate in the formal economy – including paying their fair share of taxes – and start home-based businesses. These businesses will allow individuals and families in underserved communities to increase their incomes, weather economic downturns, and ultimately grow thriving businesses. Support this proposal by signing our petition or sharing your home cooking experience through our advocacy survey!

4. Pass Initiative 1000

Today, Washington is one of only 8 states in the U.S. without affirmative action policies because of Initiative 200 (I-200), a 1998 Washington State law that bans the use of affirmative action in employment, education, or government contracting. Since the passage of I-200, state spending with certified minority and woman-owned businesses has plummeted from 10% to just 3% annually. As a result, small, woman-, veteran-, LGTBQ- and minority-owned businesses have lost an estimated $3.5 billion dollars in state contracts.

This dramatic change in funding allocated for business owners in underserved communities is unacceptable, and we believe that I-1000 would be an effective solution. I-1000 would create opportunities for Ventures entrepreneurs without “preferential treatment,” or the act of using race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, presence of disability, and military status or the sole qualifying factor to select a less qualified candidate over a more qualified candidate.

Ventures supported this campaign by collecting and validating petitions, and the campaign team recently announced that it had turned in more than 350,000 signatures! Because I-1000 was an initiative to the legislature, our representatives will either adopt the initiative as proposed, reject the initiative and put it on the ballot in November 2019, or propose an alternative. With all of the possibilities, the best way to stay up to date on this campaign is by signing up for our advocacy email list.

If you are passionate about one or more of these issues, we can help you can step up to advocate.

You can find out who your state legislators are on this site and ask them to support our priorities via phone, email, Facebook, or Twitter (Ventures clients can also reach out to our team for coaching on how to do this effectively).

Want to do even more? Take your advocacy to the next level and help us build power for Ventures and our entrepreneurs at our first-ever Advocacy Day in Olympia on February 28th!