RepWatch | Brayden Olson's futurist fundamentals

2018-02-11 | The Wenatchee World

Feb. 10--Meet Brayden: Issaquah tech entrepreneur Brayden Olson, 30, is the youngest of the Democrats seeking U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert's 8th District congressional seat. He's building his campaign on economic mobility, noting that citizens are ever more pinched by skyrocketing costs in housing, healthcare and higher ed.

"It is factually, provably harder to get ahead in the U.S. now than it was 20 years ago," Olson says. "... It's easier to improve one's station in life in any of our wealthier allies -- Canada, Germany, even France. As someone who didn't come from a super wealthy family, that's a pretty personal issue for me."

The son of Vancouver schoolteachers, Olson started his first business straight out of Seattle University. Since then he's launched three more, with his most prominent, the Bellevue-based Recurrence, designing game-based software to turn college business instruction into interactive simulations. The firm is partnered with the University of Washington's business school to develop more such "gamulations" under a $200,000 National Science Foundation grant. Olson says he's now at work on a startup to address housing economics.

Prior to entering the primary race last year, Olson advised legislators drafting the Washington Jobs Act of 2014. That state stimulus law allows for "equity crowdfunding" -- an investment mechanism that lets small businesses sell equity to large groups of small-dollar investors, and more easily gain startup capital. If elected, he hopes to "take that model to the federal level and say, look what we did, it worked, and this is the model we need to bring to the other states."

Like the rest of the Democratic field, Olson wants to broaden access to Medicare through a lower buy-in age and protect women's reproductive rights. Broader healthcare access and affordability will likely mean taking on big drug and insurance firms, he says. He also wants to build a hedge against downward wage pressures and unemployment brought on by mass automation and artificial intelligence. "Yes, when we created cars, it created more jobs, because cars can't build themselves," Olson says. "But these technologies can. ... It is unlike anything else we've faced before, and we need to be looking at the Congressional Budget Office today to plan for what's coming."

The budget buster: Fourth District U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse couldn't bring himself to vote for Friday's massive Bipartisan Budget Act, which passed the House 240-186 and promptly got President Donald Trump's signature. The two-year budget deal boosts federal spending by about $300 billion, which Newhouse called "a blank check to enable the federal government to continue to accumulate debt." Reichert voted with the majority, saying the bill "will allow us to fund critical government programs, strengthen our military, and avoid continued short-term spending bills."

Curb your dog: 12th District State Rep. Mike Steele's bill to slap the wrists of owners who misrepresent their pets as service animals sailed through the House Thursday, passing 98-0. The bill would make the offense a civil infraction with a $500 fine, citing the hazards of an untrained animal in a place of business or transit. Disabled citizens fear that fraudulent identification of pets as trained service animals "erode trust and cause confusion" about the practice, Steele said. The bill heads now to the Senate.

Go fish: The state Senate on Wednesday confirmed Wenatchee Valley outdoorsman and columnist Dave Graybill to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission -- almost three years into his six-year term. Graybill, 68, has served on the commission since Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him in March 2015, but his appointment never went before a Senate committee. No committee hearing doesn't prevent an appointee from serving, but 12th District Sen. Brad Hawkins brought Graybill's appointment to the Natural Resources and Parks Committee last March, when Hawkins was vice chair. As the "Fishin' Magician," Graybill, of Leavenworth, has spent decades guiding anglers around NCW's lakes and waterways.

WashingtonVotes.org roll call: NCW legislators turned out at January's end to oppose a set of reproductive health care bills. In the Senate, Hawkins voted no on SB 6219, which would require health insurance plans in Washington that offer maternity care coverage to also cover elective abortions. It passed to the House on a 26-22 vote. In the House, Steele and state Rep. Cary Condotta voted against HB 1523, which does much the same. It passed to the Senate over their objections 56-38. On a House bill that passed 64-30, requiring child passengers to be properly belted into child restraint systems until reaching height and weight limits set by the manufacturers, Steele voted yes, Condotta no. Steele and Condotta also opposed a bill to prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior arrests or convictions before determining their qualifications (passed 52-46), and voted against the state's hiring of a data company to analyze prescription drug data (passed 50-48).

Reach Jefferson Robbins at 509-664-7123 or robbins@wenatcheeworld.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRobbinsWW. Contact him securely by PGP key.