On Rep. Tana Senn’s first day in the Legislature the House swiftly passed the Dream Act. It would later stall in the Senate, but the feeling was exhilarating for the 42-year-old mom, consultant and Mercer Island City Councilmember.
“I was so proud to be able to vote for that,” she exclaimed, after wrapping her first week in the Legislature, last Friday.
Senn was chosen over David Ellis and former vice president of the Greater Seattle Business Association, George Pieper, to replace Marcie Maxwell of the 41st District, when she joined Governor Inslee’s education team last year. Despite the long commute and demanding hours, Senn promised to hold both positions.
“I’m a mom, juggling is what I do,” said Senn with a laugh, adding more seriously: “The the issues that impact Mercer Island, impact the rest of the district too…and the people of Mercer Island elected me to council, so certainly I will fulfill that.”
There will be four city council meetings during the short 60 day legislative session, all of which Senn said she plans to attend, including a three day planning retreat Jan. 24 through 26. Already working at a city level has informed her job in Olympia. She points for instance, to the issue of sin taxes, a tax levied on goods and services like candy, tobacco and alcohol. Local government gets a percentage of liquor taxes, which many cities then use to fund law enforcement. But since privatization, notes Senn, theft has spiked, making for fewer police department funds.
“Local governments have tight budgets, they’re very lean. So as the amount of liquor money [available, decreases] and law enforcement is increasing, we face some serious budget issues…That local government experience is really helpful to understand what cities are facing. It keeps me grounded.”
Such foresight is a critical asset, says Senn, who has already been busy at work. She was appointed to positions on the Early Learning and Human Services Committee, the Environment Committee and the Capital Budget Committee. This week she announced sponsorship of Gov. Inslee’s bill to introduce business-and-occupation tax exemptions for small businesses. Mercer Island has its own B&O tax exemptions for the first $150,000 annually, but Senn can already envisage a local impact and points to Island businesses like the shoe store as beneficiaries.
“This is a pretty exciting proposal. I think it’s very much making it easier for families, mom-and-pop shops,” says Senn. “It’s a bipartisan bill and given the entrepreneurial spirit of Mercer Island and the 41st District, this is unparalleled.”
The threshold for retail and manufacturing businesses would be raised from $28,000 to $50,000 and from $46,000 to $50,000 for service oriented businesses.
“Our business is still in the infancy stage so every bit helps,” said John Keith of Mercer Island's Hennie McPennie in a statement. The business opened last year after John and his wife Theresa left her job at T-Mobile to launch the new venture.
Though transportation, agrees Senn, will be number one among Islanders.
“We’re in good hands,” said Senn of her seatmate Judy Clibborn, chair of the House Transportation Committee.