Opinion

News you can use from Olympia

As one of the state legislators working for Bremerton residents in Olympia, I appreciate the opportunity to communicate with readers on a regular basis. In the upcoming months I may cover topics such as ferries, public education, health care, public safety and economic development, which we spend a great deal of time debating during each legislative session. But today I’d like to share with you some information about new state laws or programs that might be of interest to you.

Freezing your credit reports

One new state law allows all Washington residents to put a security freeze on their credit reports, beginning Sept. 1. This means that upon request, creditors and insurance companies cannot have access to your credit history without permission.

This is an important step towards preventing identity theft. Because most businesses will not open new accounts without a credit history, the ability to freeze your file will protect you from financial loss if your credit information is stolen. Freezing your records also may cut down on the amount of unsolicited mail you receive.

The law allows you to temporarily unfreeze your credit file when you need access and allows credit companies to charge $10 for each action requested. Victims of identity theft and seniors are exempt from the fee. Remember, you have to request that your file be frozen. For more information, check out the Web site www.GuardItWashington.com or call my office.

Four-Year Scholarships

While the state legislature has made significant investments in higher education and vocational and technical training, I want to highlight one new program called College Bound. This program will provide free tuition and books to foster children and students from low income families who choose to attend Washington’s colleges, universities, technical or vocational schools. Students must sign up for this program in seventh or eighth grade to be eligible.

This year’s seventh and eighth graders are the first group to be able to apply. They must be Washington residents, meet income eligibility (65 percent or less than the state’s median family income), maintain a cumulative 2.0 grade point average through high school and cannot be convicted of a felony. They must fill out an application and pledge to graduate from high school and demonstrate good citizenship.

Eighth graders must apply by June 1 of this year. For more information, check out the Web site, www.hecb.wa.gov/collegebound, or call my office.

Veterans News

This year, the Legislature enabled retired veterans who suffer service-related disabilities to deduct the benefits they receive from the amount used to assess senior citizen property tax reductions. We also expanded the types of vehicle license plates issued for service in the National Guard and made it easier for families of veterans to purchase special armed forces plates. The County Auditor’s office has information about both of these programs.

WSF’s Electronic Fare Cards

The Legislature continues to work on restructuring the entire ferry system to provide reliable, safe service for the future. One change included the creation of an electronic fare system to promote better accountability and tracking of fares. While WSF continues to address customer concerns about the new system, I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned from constituents to get the most out of the cards: make a copy. The toll operators accept copies as long as they can scan the barcode. This way you don’t have to worry about misplacing the card, keeping it in the wrong glove compartment or forgetting to get the card from a family member. You are allowed to share the frequent passenger/driver fare cards.

Track your use. Although you can’t track use on the fare card itself (that is something WSF is working to address), you can track the details of your use on the WSF Web site. It’s pretty cool – you can see the date, time and run that the ticket was used.

Again, there is a lot to report from Olympia and this column just scratches the surface. I am always available to answer questions, help resolve problems with state services and listen to your concerns and ideas.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in Olympia. I look forward to hearing from you.

Christine Rolfes represents the 23rd Legislative District in the Washington State House of Representatives. She and her legislative assistant, Sarah Miller, can be reached at (360) 786-7842 or rolfes.christine@leg.wa.gov.

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