Building Momentum: 2021 Session Recap
Will von Geldern

May 5, 2021

You might remember that each January, our representatives in state government go to Olympia for the “legislative session.” During each session, lawmakers create Washington’s budget and write new laws to govern the state. This year’s virtual version was a little bit different, but Ventures still showed up to advocate for the business owners we serve.

With the many discussions around inequality, racial justice, and the pandemic, there were more big reforms this year than there usually are. Although Ventures has limited capacity to advocate in Olympia, we still had a powerful showing at our third annual Advocacy Day and kept building our movement all session long. In 2021, we decided to stay focused on a narrow policy agenda. Here’s an update on the two items that our entrepreneurs have asked us to prioritize:
Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC). Advocates for this policy have been working on it for more than a decade, and Ventures joined the coalition three years ago. The WFTC creates a program which would provide cash assistance in the form of tax refunds for low- and middle-income Washingtonians across the state. After years and decades of advocacy, this was the year for the WFTC!
Working within a coalition of 40+ organizations, Ventures was the small business voice for this proposal. With the leadership of Representative My-Linh Thai and Senator Joe Nguyen, the House and Senate both passed incredibly strong versions of the bill. Ventures was particularly focused on ensuring that Washingtonians who file their taxes without a social security number (including those without immigration documentation who use an ITIN) receive benefits as well – and we were successful! Starting in 2023, this bill will provide cash support (averaging about $500) to individuals, with additional benefits for households with children.

 

Ventures entrepreneurs were essential at every stage of the process. Chevon Powell (Golden Bricks Events) was featured as a speaker by our friends at the Budget and Policy Center in support of the proposal, and was featured in a recent Seattle Times article about the issue as well. Beth Shea (Echo Artworks) also provided powerful testimony at two public hearings, explaining why it’s important to put money back into working families’ pockets. The voices of the Ventures community helped show that this policy will support underserved communities, small business owners, and their customers.

The “Tamale Bill.” While it was incredible to see the WFTC pass after so many years, it was also an important reminder that change takes time. Unfortunately, we learned that our bill to regulate home cooking by creating a statewide Microenterprise Home Kitchens permit will need more time to move forward. After working with Ventures to create a equitable, effective system for two years, our partners in public health reversed their position on the bill less than 48 hours before our first hearing. We are grateful for their work this past year, and look forward to our continued partnership with them.

We were still able to pass the bill through three committees in the House, a full House vote, and three committees in the Senate (in 2020, we made it through just one committee in the House) – but unfortunately, the bill was not brought up for a full Senate vote on the final day, and we just missed the deadline.

Even though we didn’t cross the finish line, we are extremely grateful for the hard work of Representative Noel Frame and many others on this bill. Ventures entrepreneur Prashanthi Reddy was able to share her support for this bill with the Seattle Times, it was featured in the Seattle PI, and all of this work helped us build awareness and make great progress.

 

Moving forward, we will keep working with our partners and small business owners to create a proposal that will create opportunity and equity for all aspiring entrepreneurs. We are also committed to building a program that will not leave micro-businesses unregulated, which creates public health risks. Moving this legislation forward is a big task, but we have come this far and we couldn’t have done that with your help! If you want to learn more or share your story of home cooking, please reach out to Will at [email protected].

In the coming months, Ventures is going to take a step back and revisit our policy priorities for 2022 while continuing to make progress on our existing goals. If you have something that you’d like us to work on, please reach out. In the meantime, we will take some time to celebrate success and learn from our challenges.

Even with all of the challenges facing small businesses and underserved communities right now, we are still moving forward! Join the movement by signing up for our updates here.