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Tax exemption among pro-business proposals

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

A small herd of bills intended to help small businesses is gaining support in the state Senate, though one of them — to provide a tax exemption for high-tech companies that invest in research and development — expired in committee.

The remaining three, all sponsored by Sen. Tracey Eide of Federal Way, are waiting to be voted out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and into the House of Representatives. They are:

• Senate Bill 5640, which would eliminate a business and occupation tax on income generated within the first five years of obtaining a patent or copyright.

• Senate Bill 5641, which would abolish the state Small Business Development Center and replace it with an “Entrepreneurial Assistance Center.” The latter would support small business and entrepreneurial development by providing technical assistance, training and support services to startup firms and by encouraging self-employment.

• Senate Bill 5642, which would create a state business and job retention program to help businesses that are likely to close or are facing mass layoffs.

“We need to give our economy a boost,” Eide said. “Small business is the engine of our economy. We need to keep it running.”

Meanwhile, her legislation requiring the State Patrol to add use of cell phones to accident reports was enthusiastically passed out of the Senate and is expected to encounter equal support in the House.

An associated bill making it a secondary offense to operate a vehicle while using a cell phone had to be voted out of the Senate Rules Committee by the end of today in order to remain eligible for possible approval.

Neither cell phone proposal affects the reckless or negligent-driving laws already on the books, but they do add an extra layer to them.

Some drivers can’t multi-task well enough to talk on the phone while they’re trying to drive, Eide said. People chatting on the phone have driven through stop signs or lights, crossed yellow lines and drifted into other lanes of travel, according to traffic accident investigators.

“It’s equivalent to driving while intoxicated,” she said.

Those with stick shifts have a hard time shifting while they’re talking on the phone, Eide said. And others can’t use their signals “because they have a hand on their cell phone.”

Eide said her bill is intended to raise driver awareness of how distracting talking on the phone is, particularly because driving demands careful attention and quick reflexes. “Once an individual gets in their car, they’re not getting in the car to talk on the phone, have a cup of coffee and a cigarette,” she said. “We want to make sure people are aware of what they’re doing.”

The Good Samaritan bill she sponsored again this year, which makes it a gross misdemeanor not summon assistance for someone who has suffered serious bodily injury as a result of physical violence, also is in the Senate Rules committee waiting to be voted into the House.

Eide sponsored the legislation, also known as the Joey Levick bill, in memory of a young south King County man who was severely beaten and left to die in a ditch in Burien.

Levick’s assailants brought several friends and relatives to look at at him as he slowly drowned in a small puddle of water over the course of 14 hours. Levick would have lived if someone had called 9-1-1.

Companion legislation received a unanimous, bipartisan vote out of the House Monday. If both bills pass, the sponsors will meet to decide which is the better bill to move forward for a final vote and the governor’s signature.

“Now, finally, it looks like this could be the year,” said Rep. Mark Miloscia, D, Federal Way, one of the sponsors of the House bill. “At least now there’s no opposition to it. It’s funny. Depending on the year, one side of the aisle or the other side of the aisle had a problem with it.”

He said the bill had good chances of making it through the Senate with Eide’s leadership. “Once you get bipartisan support, the bill really gains momentum,” he said.

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