Introducing our “Tamale Bill”
Will von Geldern

January 27, 2020

Ventures introduced a law to level the playing field for micro-scale food businesses!

We have always heard from our business owners that starting a food business is complicated and expensive. Some of this is for good reason; you wouldn’t, after all, want a system where food preparation is unregulated, because that would create risks for customers and business owners. Sometimes, however, the current systems created by our government do not adapt to new and innovative business models and entrepreneurial opportunities.

That’s why Ventures is working to make Washington State the second in the nation to authorize micro-scale food operations in home kitchens through what we’re calling our “tamale bill.” This legislation would create a permitting process for a new business model called “Microenterprise Home Kitchens.” Many of us have had the experience of buying tamales or lumpia online or from a friend – but as of today, that can lead to a lack of training and proper permitting. It also creates barriers for entrepreneurs with limited resources, which can leave them with no other choice but to operate outside of the system.

On January 16th, Ventures took action to change the system. We took a group of 20+ Ventures entrepreneurs and team members to the state capitol to advocate for Senate Bill 6434 / House Bill 2777 which would unlock the potential of so many home-based entrepreneurs. We believe in working with entrepreneurs that might not have had a chance to participate in the formal economy, and using an inclusive process to bring them into the system. This bill would do just that, creating opportunities for public health training and raising the standards for many home-based food businesses.

        

This year’s Advocacy Day was a huge success.

We hosted an advocacy training, met with the prime sponsors of our legislation, Representative Noel Frame of Seattle and Senator Emily Randall of Bremerton, and attended 15 meetings with other representatives to share stories about why this legislation is so important. But even as we celebrate our achievements, many challenges still lie ahead. Our impact keeps growing each year, but passing a statewide law is an enormous endeavor. We still need to win over at least half of our state’s 98 Representatives and 49 Senators in order to send it to the Governor’s desk. Advocacy Day felt like the culmination of our campaign, but it was really just the end of the beginning. A quick glance at the State Senate’s website shows you that we still have a long way to go.

As you can see, this legislation needs to go through several committees, the floor, and both chambers before it becomes law. This means our representatives still need to act on our behalf – so let’s keep up the pressure!

If you haven’t done so, join the hundreds of others who have signed our petition. If you already have, please share it with 5 friends. We also need as many people as possible to raise their voices about why SB 6434 / HB 2777 matters to them – you can do so by finding and contacting your state representatives here, and I will gladly set up meetings for business owners who want to meet their representatives at any point.

With your help, Ventures is going to keep driving the conversation about inclusion for women, people of color, and immigrants in the food economy.  We will keep you posted on the latest developments, and please reach out with any questions, comments, or ideas.

¡Si se puede! Yes we can – and we will – increase access and reduce barriers to small business ownership. Please stay tuned, and you can always reach out to me at wvongeldern@venturesnonprofit.org with your ideas or sign up for our advocacy email list to stay in touch.