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Pot, potholes, planes top legislative agenda

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WENATCHEE — Highways, high taxes, flying high and getting high are just four of the top issues lawmakers will face next month when the 63rd Legislature convenes in Olympia, local legislators said here Wednesday.

This is a session where we fine-tune the budget and wrap-up unfinished business,” said Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee. “At least that’s the plan — we’ll see where it goes.”

Twelfth District lawmakers Hawkins, Rep. Cary Condotta and Sen. Linda Evans Parlette presented a preview of the 60-day legislative session, set to begin Jan. 13, to members and guests of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The legislators said the 2014 session follows an intense year of lawmaking that brought an extended 105-day session along with two special sessions to hammer out a balanced budget and approve incentives to entice Boeing to build its next big jet in the state.

A quick look at upcoming issues:

Highways: Parlette said legislators still face challenges on how to fund a transportation package of road and bridge improvements across the state, including some projects in North Central Washington.

High taxes: Condotta said Washington’s business and occupation tax needs attention or, most likely, complete reform if lawmakers are to “improve the environment for businesses across the state.” The legislator said he also believes the state Department of Labor and Industries needs to “refine and define” their description of an independent contractor. The current definition, he said, is undermining and confusing to small business owners, many of whom rely on independent contractors for services.

Flying high: Efforts continue to win the bid for the Boeing 777x project, said all three legislators. Gov. Jay Inslee put the finishing touches on a bid package this week to meet Boeing’s deadline on Tuesday. Fifteen states were invited to bid on the project. Condotta expected Washington would “get another bite of that apple” when Boeing execs meet again with the state’s business and civic leaders. In November, the legislature passed $8.7 billion in tax breaks for the project.

Getting high: Tweaking regulations for the sale of marijuana in the state could also continue in the next session, said Condotta. “This is a market that’s already going,” he said. “All we want to do is take it out of the dark and move it into the light, where we can regulate it and tax it. Yes, it’s an experiment.” As of Wednesday, he said, more than 1,800 applications had been filed statewide to grow or sell marijuana.

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business or follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.

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