For a whopping total of $15 this year, Initiative 953 became Initiative 954 which then became Initiative 960. Tim Eyman wastes taxpayer dollars and resources filing 3 identical initiatives (at $5 a piece) so he can get a ballot number he likes. He laughs at the Washington State Legislature and recently emphatically told them in a public hearing that all of his initiatives are different. That is a lie.
The Washington Secretary of State’s website lists 36 initiatives Eyman filed last year. Most of these initiatives were multiple filings of the same initiatives. The same “tax and fee increase” initiative was filed as I-913, I-930, I-944, I-368, I-370, I-372, I-373, I-374, I-376, I-377, I-378, and again as I-953, I-954, and I-960 this January.
Eyman refiles basically the same initiative multiple times for 2 reasons. The first reason is to get a ballot number he likes. The second reason is to changes words, phrases and sentences to try to change the ballot title he is assigned by the Attorney General’s Office. If he doesn’t like the ballot title he gets, he will change a word or two and refile. All of this is done at taxpayers’ expense. He only pays $5 per initiative filing. It costs taxpayers a lot more than this. Maybe its time for a performance audit of the state initiative filing process.
The Secretary of State’s Office pays staff to process each initiative and send it to the code revisers office which devotes staff time to review it for conformity to state law. They draft up a letter to give to the initiative sponsor suggesting needed changes. When the initiative is transported back to the Secretary of State’s Office more staff time is used to process it again, assign it a ballot number and send it to the Attorney General’s Office. Time is also spent entering the initiative text on the Secretary of State’s website.
The Attorney General’s Office devotes staff time and resources to come up with the ballot title and summary, reviewing their proposed ballot title and summary language with any interested parties and then defending it in Thurston County Superior Court if their language is challenged. This can be very time consuming and lawyer intensive – again all at taxpayer expense.
Of the 36 initiatives Eyman filed last year, 20 were filed as initiatives to the legislature through Dec 2006. Eyman had no intent of collecting signatures on these. The deadline for turning in signatures on initiatives to the Legislature is the end of December. Eyman has had over 5 months to get signatures on his recent initiatives and still failed. So he’s going to be successful starting with only 1 0r 2 months left to get signatures?
He also wouldn’t want to give the Legislature a chance to propose an alternative. His initiatives are refiled frequently to try to get what he thinks is a better ballot title and summary. Most people who might challenge these ballot titles as inaccurate are not watching the initiative process very closely in November and December. This gives Eyman a chance to get a quick start in January when he refiles one or two of these as initiatives to the people, already having a ballot title waiting.
Eyman’s current “Minority Rules” Initiative 960 was filed and refiled 11 times last year as such an initiative to the Legislature. He refiled it three times this year as an initiative to the people to change the initiative number from I-953 to I-954 to I-960.
Some in the Legislature have filed a bill to raise the filing fee to $100 to at least recoup some of the cost of this process. In California the filing fee for city initiatives like San Francisco and Sacramento is $200. Maine charges no fee.
Eyman’s abuse of the process to benefit his initiative mill business is what makes people angry. One bad apple can spoil it for the rest of us. I’ve filed and worked on many initiative campaigns over the years. I think we need to continue to keep the process open to the people so they can petition for change when the Legislature doesn’t act. But Eyman’s behavior and disrespect for the process is like a little boy in the cookie jar. He doesn’t eat just one or two cookies. He eats the whole jar.
His Initiative 960 of course is another example of a spoiled boy’s behavior. Eyman doesn’t like the fact that the Washington State Constitution says that the Legislature shall vote by majority rule. So he’s trying to fool the voters into believing that he can ignore the state Constitution and require that any vote to increase revenue to pay for services either requires a 2/3 vote by the Legislature or a majority vote by the Legislature and a majority vote of the people.
Under I-960 if the Legislature wanted to just increase the filing fee to an outrageous $10, they would have to have a 2/3 vote of the Legislature or put it on the ballot for all of us to vote on. Yes under Eyman’s Initiative 960 all fee increases as well as tax increases would require a vote. I can just see the ballot now, ten or twenty pages long as we all get to decide what fees are charged water users, boat launches, grazing fees, business licenses, game licenses and on and on. Like we just must vote on all of these?
Eyman continues to abuse the public trust. He rails against a wasteful government but feels no remorse about using taxpayer dollars and resources to further his own business. In that sense he is no different than all the other businesses lobbyists down in Olympia looking for handouts and exemptions from expenses and taxes that the rest of us have to pay.