The following letter to the editor of the Seattle Times was posted on their website yesterday. I wrote the letter in response to their editorial on Sunday entitled, “State lawmakers should listen to voters on I-1185 and the two-thirds tax law.” The Washington State Supreme Court ruled on February 28, 2013 that requiring a supermajority vote of the Legislature to raise revenue or pass any other ordinary legislation was unconstitutional. The Seattle Times choose to editorialize on the issue against the decision of the Washington State Supreme Court. My response:
The Seattle Times in its recent editorial errs in it’s judgment that supermajority votes are somehow in the best interests of our state. Logic says that to require a supermajority vote to pass legislation means that the minority interest would trump the majority interest. Under Initiative 1185, if 17 State Senators out of 49 Senators said no to a revenue bill to fund education, they would prevail over any majority vote by both the state Senate and House.
As the state Supreme Court noted, “ … a supermajority requirement for ordinary legislation would allow special interests to control resulting legislation. While the current Supermajority Requirement applies only to tax increases, if carried to its logical conclusion, the State’s argument could allow all legislation to be conditioned on a supermajority vote. In other words, under the State’s reasoning, a simple majority of the people or the Legislature could require particular bills to receive 90 percent approval rather than just a two-thirds approval, thus essentially ensuring that those types of bills would never pass. Such a result is antithetical to the notion of a functioning government and should be rejected as such.”
The issue here is actually not just a tax issue but but an issue of how our State legislature functions and whether or not minority interests can impose roadblocks to the majority of Legislators doing their jobs. It is absurd that this supermajority requirement has hindered the Legislators from doing their job for the larger part of 20 years. Ever since voters passed I-601 by a small margin of 51% to 49% the problem has persisted, illustrating how by a simple majority vote could give a minority of 1/3 of the legislators in one House of the Legislature veto power over the majority.
As pointed out by the Washington State Supreme Court in their opinion:
“…allowing a supermajority requirement for ordinary legislation alters our system of government. The framers of the United States Constitution expressed as much in the Federalist papers:
If a pertinacious minority can controul the opinion of a majority respecting the best mode of conducting it; the majority in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will over-rule that of the greater.
THE FEDERALIST NO. 22, at 141 (Alexander Hamilton) (Jacob E. Cooke ed., 1961);
accord THE FEDERALIST No. 58 (James Madison).”
In a 6 to 3 decision this last week the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053′s supermajority provisions for passage of revenue measures by the State Legislature was unconstitutional. In fact it went beyond revenue measures and said any attempt to require supermajority votes not in the Washington State Constitution was unconstitutional.
The decision stated that, Article II, sec. 22 of the Washington State Constitution “prohibits either the people or legislature from passing legislation requiring more than a simple majority for the passage of tax legislation – or any other ordinary legislation”. Despite this language Majority Leader Rodney Tom in the Washington State Senate immediately tried to figure a way to change the Senate rules to require a two thirds vote to raise taxes by the Legislature.
On the same day the Court issued their opinion, the Olympian reported that Tom said:
“We’re going to stand behind the will of the people. They’ve been very clear that they want it to be difficult to raise taxes,” Tom said today.
The rule would require a two-thirds supermajority or a public vote to pass any tax increase.
And passing the rule would take only a simple majority of all senators, unlike a constitutional amendment that is much less likely to pass.
Seems that legal counsel finally convinced Tom that the Washington State Supreme Court ruling also applied in principle to any rule making by the Legislature. By that didn’t stop him from trying to consider it. Here’s what the Supreme Court said about allowing a 1/3 minority of Legislators to overrule a majority:
Article II, sec. 22 “prohibits either the people or legislature from passing legislation requiring more than a simple majority for the passage of tax legislation – or any other ordinary legislation.”…
They also stated that) “The Supermajority Requirement unconstitutionally amends the constitution by imposing a two-thirds vote requirement for tax legislation.
More importantly, the Supermajority Requirement substantially alters our system of government, thus enabling a tyranny of the minority.”
The telling words here to listen to are not so much that requiring a supermajority vote to raise revenue was unconstitutional but that it allowed a 1/3 minority of legislators in one House of the Legislature to veto any majority vote of the rest of the Legislators. Under this system the minority vote prevails and the minority rules, not the majority.
It is a negation of the idea of one person one vote, saying that on revenue issues, including repealing any tax loopholes, that a State Legislator opposed to raising revenue had the equivalent of 2 votes for every one vote that a State legislator had that supported raising revenue. The result was that the No vote of 17 State senators out of 49 Senators could negate the Yes votes of 32 Senators. The minority position would win out which is what happened in almost all cases in the State Legislature while the 2/3 voting mandate was in place.
One could similarly make an argument that incumbents have an unfair advantage in running for office and need to be term limited. The equivalent to I-1053 in this instance would be if the voters agreed and passed an initiative saying that any incumbent Legislator running needed to get a supermajority vote to win or his opponent would win. Following the logic of I-1053, if the incumbent got 64% of the vote, but did not receive the 2/3 supermajority vote, then his opponent would win, even though he only got 36% of the vote. The goal of limiting re-election of incumbents would be accomplished by this action which lets a minority of voters make the decision as to who gets elected. Most voters seeing the results would cry foul. Fortunately this example is also now void as the Washington State Supreme Court specifically noted that Article II, sec. 22 of the Washington State Constitution “prohibits either the people or legislature from passing legislation requiring more than a simple majority for the passage of tax legislation – or any other ordinary legislation“ (highlighting mine).
Tim Eyman and his corporate donors for I-1185 which voters passed this last November argued that raising taxes should be harder than passing other legislation and that was why they should prevail. This is a political philosophy that represents the conservative Republican position. Yet running on that position against Democrats they have not been able to elect a majority of Republicans to the House or Senate in recent years. This year two so called Democratic Legislators, Senator Rodney Tom of the 48th LD and Senator Tim Sheldon, joined with 23 Republicans to take over the State Senate.
There is a clear difference between Republicans and Democrats on this issue that still persists. Republicans and Rodney Tom in the Senate rapidly passed SJR 8205 – Amending the Constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes, out of the Ways and Means Committee to the Rules Committee, 2nd reading. Fortunately for those who agree that allowing a minority position to prevail over the votes of a majority is undemocratic, the State Constitution put amending the State Constitution in a select category of legislation requiring a 2/3 vote by both the Senate and the House and a majority vote of the people in order to pass.
The State Constitution is the framework of state government and as such should be more difficult to amend than passing a general law or raising revenue or repealing tax exemptions which the voters can put on the ballot by referendum or elect new legislators who can change the law. The absurdity of Eyman’s I-1053 and I-1185 2/3 voting mandate was that it allowed Legislators to pass tax exemptions by a simple majority vote but required a 2/3 vote to repeal them.
Eyman’s measures were strongly supported by corporate business interests like BP Oil, Conoco Phillips, Association of Washington Business, the Beer Institute and others which sought to both avoid any business tax increases or repeal of any of their tax loopholes. It was a Corporate Tax Loophole Protection Act not an act which helped most residents in Washington State because it resulted in the inability of the Legislature to raise new revenue or reform our tax system.
As noted by the broad based Washington coalition called Our Economic Future we have now cut about $10 billion dollars from the State Budget. State college tuition has doubled in 4 years. It now costs to go to State Parks. State employees and teachers have lost their jobs. Public K-12 education funding has gone down. All kinds of funding to help the needy, handicapped, kids, and unemployed have decreased. The future of our state’s economy is under attack as businesses and corporations report record profits. We need a balanced approach to taxation and funding to help the people of Washington State move into a better future.
Contact your State legislators today and urge them to oppose SJR 8205 – Amending the Constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes. Go to www.leg.wa.gov and let your Legislator know you oppose a Constitutional Amendment to give a minority of Legislators veto power over the majority.
Rod Dembowki was selected today by the King County Council to fill the vacant seat left with the election last November of King County Council member Bob Ferguson to be Washington State’s Attorney General. Rod’s appointment is to fill the vacancy for the remainder of 2013. The King County Council District 1 seat will be on the November 2013 ballot. Rod plans to run for election to the seat.
The King County Council voted 8 to 0 to appoint Rod. While a number of candidates vied for the appointment, the final vote was taken among the 3 candidates whose names were forwarded to the King County Council by King County Executive Dow Constantine. The other two candidates considered for the final vote were Will Hall – a Shoreline City Council member and 32nd LD State Representative Cindy Ryu.
Rod posted the following statement on his website after the appointment:
“I am thankful to the King County Council for their faith in my ability to join them as a colleague in public service,” said Rod. “I am so grateful to the many endorsers and organizations that supported me in the appointment process, especially the many state representatives, mayors, and city council members. I look forward to working with them as we develop regional plans to benefit all of King County. I am especially grateful to Bernie Talmas, Mayor of Woodinville and Chair of the Eastside Transportation Partnership and Denis Law, Mayor of Renton and President of the Sound Cities Association, for their unwavering commitment to my appointment.”
Rod thanked the other two finalists, State Representative Cindy Ryu and Shoreline City Councilmember Will Hall for their public service. “I look forward to working with Representative Ryu in the legislature on behalf of the citizens of King County and I hope to work with Councilmember Hall as we develop regional plans that benefit our suburban cities,” said Rod.
“I am honored to have been given the opportunity to work on behalf of the residents of District 1 and all of King County,” said Rod. Getting right to work, Rod will attend the Kenmore and Shoreline city council meetings this evening.
Rod also announced the endorsement of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson for his election to the seat in November. You can visit Rod Dembowski’s website to endorse him or make a contribution to his campaign. Dembowski has raised $67,361 from 236 contributions for his campaign according to the most recent records filed through January with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.
Tell Your Washington State Legislators What You Think!
The four bills listed below are before the Washington State Legislature and need to be opposed. Urge your Legislators not to support these bills.
Oppose SB 5291 – “modifies provisions relating to signing and receipt of ballots”
This bill says that voters must “return or mail the ballot to the county auditor so that the ballot is received by the county auditor no later than 8 PM the day of the election or primary.”
This bill eliminates the ability to mail ballots and have them postmarked on Election Day and still count. With the upcoming elimination of Saturday mail it means ballots will have to be mailed Thursday or Friday with no guarantee they will reach the Elections dept on Tuesday.
Tell your legislators you want to be able to mail your ballots up to and including Election Day and still have them count.
Oppose SB 5277 – “reducing costs and inefficiencies in elections”
This bill will eliminate the printing of the text of ballot measures in the Voter’s Pamphlet. You would have to look them up on the internet rather than having them available to read as you fill out the ballot. Not everyone has easy access to a computer and this bill will make it harder to understand what it is you’re being asked to vote on.
Tell your Legislators not to eliminate printing the text of initiatives and referendum in the Voter’s Pamphlet.
Oppose House Joint Resolutions 4201 and 4206 – These two resolutions propose that the Legislature approve and submit to the voters a constitutional amendment requiring that the majority vote now in the Washington State Constitution that is needed to raise revenue be raised to a 2/3 voting requirement by both Houses, effectively giving a 1/3 minority of State legislators veto power over any increases in revenue to fund state services like educating our kids or providing for health care. A 2/3 vote would also be needed to repeal any tax loophole while allowing a simple majority to create new loopholes.
Tell your Legislators you oppose turning the power of the Legislature to fund state services like educating our children over to a 1/3 minority of Legislators. Leave the Washington State Constitution as it is. It does not need to be changed to benefit special interests and corporations.
Your Legislators can be sent e-mails at www.leg.wa.gov or you can call their offices directly and leave a message. Or you can call the toll free hotline at 1-800-562-6000.
The Washington State Democratic Party voted at it’s February 2, 2013 statewide meeting in Olympia to oppose Tim Eyman’s Initiative 517. Initiative 517 is an initiative to the Washington State Legislature. The Washington Secretary of State has certified that I-517 received sufficient signatures. As such it goes to the Washington State Legislature for consideration. They have 3 options – ignore in in which case it goes onto the Nov. 2013 ballot, pass it in which case it becomes law, or pass an alternative in which case both I-517 and the alternative go on the Nov. 2013 ballot.
The following is a copy of the resolution the Washington State Democrats passed to oppose Initiative 517.
A Resolution Opposing Initiative Measure No. 517
WHEREAS perennial initiative promoter Tim Eyman of Mukilteo has sponsored and submitted signatures for Initiative 517, a measure to the 2013 Legislature that has purposely been written to make it easier and cheaper for Eyman to operate his profit- generating initiative factory under the guise of protecting the initiative process;
WHEREAS that after admitting in February 2002 that he stole more than $157,000 of his own supporters’ money for his personal use and lied about it, Tim Eyman told the Associated Press, “I want to continue to advocate issues and I want to make a lot of money doing it”;
WHEREAS in that same interview with the Associated Press, Tim Eyman said, “This entire charade was set up so I could maintain a moral superiority over our opposition, so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don’t”;
WHEREAS Public Disclosure Commission data shows that since 1999 and except for 2003 and 2006, Tim Eyman has promoted and qualified an initiative for the November ballot every single year with the backing of powerful special interests like Great Canadian Gaming, Bellevue developer and light rail opponent Kemper Freeman, Jr., Woodinville investment banker Michael Dunmire, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, plus big oil companies such as BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Tesoro;
WHEREAS each summer and autumn since 2003, Tim Eyman and his associates Mike and Jack Fagan of Spokane have asked their followers and wealthy benefactors to contribute to their “Help Us Help Taxpayers” compensation fund, which they divide up for their own personal use;
WHEREAS Tim Eyman’s history of sponsoring and profiting from unconstitutional and destructive initiatives demonstrates that he is primarily interested in making money while wrecking the plan of government that our founders gave us, not improving the lives of Washington’s people or strengthening Washington’s many diverse communities;
WHEREAS Initiative 517 would extend from six to twelve months the period of time permitted for signature gathering for an initiative to the people, allowing Tim Eyman and his associates, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, Edward Agazarm and Roy Ruffino to make collecting signatures for initiatives to the people a more profitable and lucrative year- round business;
WHEREAS Initiative 517 attempts to prevent Washingtonians from exercising their First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly in a “Decline to Sign” campaign by making it a misdemeanor to maintain an “intimidating presence” within “twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign any initiative or referendum petition”; and
WHEREAS Initiative 517 dubiously requires leaders of cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions that provide for their own initiative process to place any initiative with sufficient voter signatures on the ballot for a public vote at public expense, even if the initiative in question concerns a matter that exceeds the lawful scope of the local initiative power;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Washington State Democrats take a position opposing I-517 before the Washington State Legislature and on the November 2013 ballot; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Washington State Democrats encourage all Washingtonians to join the coalition opposing I-517 and campaign actively for the defeat of I-517.
Why is the US House of Representatives controlled by Republicans in 2013 when Democrats won the Presidency and picked up seats in the US Senate? The answer is not that Republicans outvoted the Democrats when it came to voting for Congress. In fact its the opposite. Sam Wang in a New York Times opinion piece entitled “The Great Gerrymander of 2012“, points out that:
” Democrats received 1.4 million more votes for the House of Representatives, yet Republicans won control of the House by a 234 to 201 margin. This is only the second such reversal since World War II.”
The fact of the matter is that Republicans had an organized strategy and carried it out to gain control of the redistricting process in a number of key state in the 2010 elections. Controlling redistricting controlled the process of setting new boundaries for Congressional races after the 2010 Census was completed. As Sam Wang notes:
“Through artful drawing of district boundaries, it is possible to put large groups of voters on the losing side of every election. The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based political group dedicated to electing state officeholders, recently issued a progress report on Redmap, its multiyear plan to influence redistricting. The $30 million strategy consists of two steps for tilting the playing field: take over state legislatures before the decennial Census, then redraw state and Congressional districts to lock in partisan advantages. The plan was highly successful. …
Gerrymandering is not hard. The core technique is to jam voters likely to favor your opponents into a few throwaway districts where the other side will win lopsided victories, a strategy known as “packing.” Arrange other boundaries to win close victories, “cracking” opposition groups into many districts. Professionals use proprietary software to draw districts, but free software like Dave’s Redistricting App lets you do it from your couch. “
The states with the largest imbalance of voting for Republicans and Democrats for Congress and Republican versus Democratic votes cast statewide were – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida which had a severe imbalance in favor of Republicans. Arizona had a severe imbalance in favor of Democrats. Texas and Illinois had a moderate imbalance toward Democrats while Indiana had a moderate imbalance toward Republicans.
The net result of these imbalances heavily favored Republicans because of the gerrymandering that occurred. Republicans in these states had a 7% greater vote than the Democrats. But in terms of electing members to the House of Representatives this 7% advantage was dwarfed by their electing 76% more Republicans than Democrats. These 10 states elected 109 Republican Congressman to the House but only 62 Democrats.
As Wang notes:
In the seven states where Republicans redrew the districts, 16.7 million votes were cast for Republicans and 16.4 million votes were cast for Democrats. This elected 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats. Given the average percentage of the vote it takes to elect representatives elsewhere in the country, that combination would normally require only 14.7 million Democratic votes. Or put another way, 1.7 million votes (16.4 minus 14.7) were effectively packed into Democratic districts and wasted.
The National Conference of State Legislatures lists states with Redistricting Commissions as of 2009. The composition of a Redistricting Commission is important. While Ohio has a Redistricting Commission, it was comprised of a Board consisting “of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, and two people selected by the legislative leaders of each major political party”. Republicans had 4 of the 5 seats, having elected a Republican Governor, Auditor and Secretary of State in 2010. With this Republican partisan redistricting, Ohio’s Republican Congressional Dominance continued. In 2010 Republicans had 13 seats to the Democrats having 5. In 2012, having lost 2 seats due to population changes nationwide, the Republicans however continued their dominance with 12 seats to the Democrats having 4. This was despite Obama winning Ohio by 2,827,621 votes to Romney’s 2,661,407 votes and electing a Democratic US Senator, Sherrod Brown, by a vote of 2,762,690 to 2,435,712 over his Republican opponent.
Sam Wang suggests that such voting disparities between total statewide Democratic to Republican votes and the differing outcome of Congressional races should be addressed by setting up nonpartisan Redistricting Commissions not subject to blatant partisan makeup like in Ohio or subject to which party controls the process in the Legislature because they are the majority party. This would certainly more accurately reflect the national and state political makeup and not give disproportionate representation to one party over the other based on election results in other races that can be gamed. He also said there needs to be stronger judicial review of gerrymandering to ensure a fairer voting outcome.
Washington State voters in 1983 approved Amendment 74 to set up an independent Redistricting Commission. It set up a Commission of 5 members, 1 each selected by the Washington State House and Senate majority and minority leaders in the Legislature and the 5th member selected by the 4 appointed members.The measure was put on the ballot by the Washington State Legislature as a proposed amendment to the Washington State Constitution and passed with a 61% yes vote. The Washington State League of Women Voters was one of the primary forces behind the measure. Washington State was the third state in the country to enact an independent Redistricting Commission.
Washington state in 2012 picked up an additional Congressional seat and elected 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans to the US House of Representatives. President Obama received 56.16% of the vote in Washington State. Senator Maria Cantwell (D) won with 60.45% of the vote. The 10 Democratic candidates for the US House of Representatives received 54.43% of the vote. (1,636,726 votes out of 3,007,096 votes). So Washington State having elected 6 Democrats to the US House out of 10 seats is pretty close to the statewide Democratic voting average. (Voting numbers are from results posted on the Washington State Secretary of state’s website).
Tim Eyman’s Initiative 517 was certified on January 23rd by the Washington Secretary of State’s office. I-517 is an initiative to the legislature. If, as likely, the legislature chooses not to act on it, it will be placed on the November 5, 2013 ballot. The legislature has an option to put an alternative on the ballot with it.
The official ballot title and summary for I-517 is:
Initiative Measure No. 517 concerns initiative and referendum measures.
This measure would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures.
Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]
Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would define terms concerning interfering with or retaliating against petition-signers and signature-gatherers, and would make such conduct a criminal misdemeanor and subject to anti-harassment laws. The measure would require that all state and local measures receiving enough signatures be placed on the ballot, limiting pre-election legal challenges. The measure would also extend the time for filing initiatives and gathering signatures from ten to sixteen months before the election when the vote would occur.
Initiative 517 is not needed and should be rejected by both the Washington State Legislature and the voters.
Initiative 517 – which Tim Eyman calls the “Protect the Initiative Act” is really the “Protect Tim Eyman’s Profit Machine Initiative“. Tim started initiative efforts in 1995 and by 1999 they had become his primary business. This is an initiative meant to increase Tim’s business of putting right wing conservative measures on the ballot in Washington State.
I-517 is Tim Eyman’s attempt to increase his initiative business to a year round activity, guarantee more markets for his initiatives by requiring cities and counties to put them on the ballot, and eliminate any opposition to people signing his measures by expanding anti harassment laws to try to unconstitutionally limit free speech rights of others.
As explained on the website opposing Initiative 517:
Initiative 517 has three main provisions:
- It would double the period of time permitted for signature gathering for an initiative to the people, allowing Tim Eyman and his associates, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, Edward Agazarm and Roy Ruffino to make collecting signatures for initiatives to the people a more profitable and lucrative year-round business.
- It attempts to prevent Washingtonians from exercising their First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly in a “Decline to Sign” campaign by making it a misdemeanor to maintain an “intimidating presence” within “twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign any initiative or referendum petition”.
- It dubiously requires leaders of cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions that provide for their own initiative process to place any initiative with sufficient voter signatures on the ballot for a public vote at public expense, even if the initiative in question concerns a matter that exceeds the lawful scope of the local initiative power.
Laws already exist to deal with harassment within our state. What Eyman is proposing is to expand those laws so that anyone opposed to his initiatives would be prevented from coming with 25 feet of a petitioner. This is a violation of free speech. Because words like intimidation and harassment can take on many common meanings, the first amendment rights of citizens opposing a measure, such as merely urging people to read a measure before signing it, could cause them to be subject to arrest.
USlegal.com for instance says the following about harassment, which should give any free speech advocates cause for concern regarding giving petitioners special rights superior to those of other citizens.
“Harassment is governed by state laws, which vary by state, but is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim. Harassing behavior may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.
Now the problem is that of course anyone who stands say 5 feet away from a petitioner with a sign that says “Read this initiative before you sign it. It is a terrible initiative” or something to that effect would obviously “annoy” a petitioner. The petitioner could consider it a “derogatory poster”. The petitioner could consider it a “hostile environment”. But if the sign holder is not physically assaulting a petitioner or blocking a petitioner from having people sign a petition, why should the sign holder lose his right of free speech. Why should he be harassed and threatened with being arrested. Tolerance and fairness is required on both sides. Free speech for all is guaranteed under the US Constitution, not just those on one side of an issue.
Eyman wants to create a special class of free speech rights for paid petitioners so he can, without public debate, more easily secure a place on the ballot. It is his business and he is asking for special rights for helping his business put more money in his pocket. Next he will be claiming that only his side should be able to speak publicly at public forums regarding the merits of an initiative since anyone speaking against his initiative is “harassing”him.
As former Secretary of State Sam Reed wrote in his official statement in 2012 on the secretary of state’s website regarding “Filing Initiatives and Referenda in Washington State”
“Do I have the right to urge people not to sign a petition?
Yes, as a matter of freedom of speech. Opponents of an initiative or referendum can certainly express the opinion that it would not be a good idea for a voter to sign a petition. An opponent, however, does
not have the right to interfere with the petition process. In fact, it is a gross misdemeanor to interfere with somebody else’s right to sign a petition, and there are also laws against assaulting people. You can certainly express your opinion, but you must remember that other people have rights to their opinions as well, including the right to sign petitions you may not like.
This principle works both ways, of course. Neither side of an initiative or referendum campaign has the right to prevent the other from expressing opinions.”
Here is part of the language Eyman is proposing to add
(1) A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person: …
(e) Interferes with or retaliates against a person collecting signatures or signing any initiative or referendum petition by pushing, shoving, touching, spitting, throwing objects, yelling, screaming, being verbally abusive, blocking or intimidating, or other tumultuous conduct or maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign any initiative or referendum petition. (2) Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor.
So most of the language would fall under current harassment law but “the maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign an initiative or referendum petition” is so vague and subjective that it can easily be abused by any petitioner who wants to stop anyone opposing them . This proposed initiative is not needed and is a threat to free speech. It is frankly unconstitutional .
The names of Rod Dembowski, Will Hall and Cindy Ryu have been sent by King County Executive Dow Constantine to the King County Council as the finalists to fill the vacant King County Council seat in District 1. The seat became vacant when voters in November elected King County Council member Bob Ferguson to be Washington State’s Attorney General.
As noted in today’s Seattle Times, the King County Council has 60 days in which to select one of the three to fill out the remainder of Ferguson’s term. The 8 King County Council members still on the Council have 60 days to make their choice. These 8 members, while elected as nonpartisan members of the Council are split 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans. The 3 finalists for the seat are all identified as Democrats. If the split Council can not make a decision, the decision will be be made by Governor Jay Inslee.
Whoever is selected will have to run for election in this year’s August Primary and if one of the top two in that Primary also run in the General Election in November. While all three say they will run for election, this might change after one of them is selected to fill the vacancy. It is also possible and likely that others will run in this year’s election, to challenge whoever is selected.
Of the three candidates being considered Rod Dembowski has raised some $63,936 from 222 contributions to run for election. Cindy Ryu has raised some $31,710 from 62 contributions. Will Hall has raised $1050 from 4 donors and loaned his campaign $2000. Cindy Ryu, as an incumbent state Legislator from the 32nd LD, is not able to raise additional funds until after the State legislative session adjourns. The regular session this year goes for 5 months and has just started. Clearly if Rod Dembowski continues to raise money at the rate he has so far, he will have a strong financial advantage in any election later this year.
Here are the links to their websites:
On Monday two Washington State Senators elected as Democrats became Turncoats and turned control of the Washington State Senate over to the elected Republican minority. So much for party loyalty and adhering to the supposed principles and beliefs they ran on. The print edition of the Seattle Times headline says it all – “Senate power shifts into GOP hands“. The two Democrats who bolted the Democratic Party are Rodney Tom of the 48th LD in Medina and Tim Sheldon from Mason County.
Yesterday culminated a month long process that was already in play and not a surprise. Calling themselves the Majority Coalition Caucus is a joke. The GOP heavy “coalition” is comprised of the 23 Senators actually elected as Republicans and two Senators elected as Democrats but who have now joined with the Republicans to run the Senate. This shift gave the new “majority” a 25/24 vote margin and the ability to take over.
Rodney Tom was originally a Republican who switched it appears now mostly in name only to the Democrats when he ran last time. Tom and Sheldon both benefited heavily personally in this power switch with Tom becoming the new “majority” leader and Sheldon the president pro tempore. Both Tom and Sheldon were involved in a similar power shift at the end of last year’s budget process in the Legislature.
Rodney Tom is up for election in two years and the Democrats in the 48th LD last week passed a resolution condemning Tom for his actions:
The following resolution was adopted by the 48th Legislative District Democrats by a vote of 30-8, including Senator Tom’s vote against.
–Phil Kouse, 2013-2014 Chair
State Senate Leadership Rightfully Belongs
to the Elected Democratic Majority
the 48th District Democrats, according to our bylaws, exist “to contribute to the growth, development and influence of the Democratic Party” and to “support … those candidates who, by their records and reputations, are in general agreement with the [party] platform;” and
State Senator Rodney Tom was elected as a Democrat in 2006 and 2010 with the endorsement of, and financial and volunteer support from, the 48th District Democrats and other Democratic organizations and elected officials; and
Senator Tom has announced his intentions to oppose ratification of the Senate leadership and committee chairs chosen by the elected Democratic majority, instead installing Republicans to chair important committees, including Healthcare, K-12 Education, Judiciary, and Ways & Means; and
Republican control of the Senate would be a barrier to enacting legislation that advances Democratic goals and values, such as funding for K-12 education, broadened access to higher education, mental health counseling, insurance parity for reproductive care, and implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act (“Obamacare”);
Therefore, be it resolved
that State Senator Rodney Tom is advised to vote to ratify the leadership chosen by the elected Democratic majority caucus; and
Be it further resolved
that by failing to vote for this leadership slate, Senator Tom will be thwarting Democratic values and the will of the people, rendering himself ineligible for our future endorsement and support under our bylaws.
Adopted this 9th day of January 2013, by the 48th District Democrats
A similar resolution is being considered by the King County Democrats and it is expected that the Washington State Democrats will likewise condemn Rodney Tom when they meet the beginning of February. Rodney Tom’s actions have pretty much guaranteed that if and when he runs for re-election in 2014 that this seat will be hotly contested. Likewise Democrats statewide will need to make a concerted effort to try and pick up other Senate seats to ensure that they have a real Democratic majority.
Between now and then don’t expect much to get done by the legislature on raising new revenue or repealing unneeded and costly tax loopholes. If action is to be taken in these areas it will have to be undertaken through an initiative from the people or at best a referendum by the legislature. The problem is that Republicans are so knee jerk anti-revenue, cut government only, that things may well get worse before they get better for the state budget and the state economy.
On Jan. 1, 2013 Washington State’s minimum wage increased by 15 cents to $9.19 per hour. Washington State’s minimum wage is the highest in the country. Nine other states minimum wages were also increased on Jan 1, 2013. As noted in the Huffington Post:
Nearly a million low-wage workers will see their earnings rise because of the increases, most of which come courtesy of state cost-of-living adjustments that account for inflation. Washington State will once again have the highest minimum wage in the nation, at $9.19 per hour, after a raise of 15 cents for the new year. The other states raising their wage floors are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The federal minimum wage remains $7.25 per hour, with no cost-of-living adjustment, and prevails in 31 states that do not mandate a higher state minimum wage. The last raise to the federal minimum came in 2009, after a series of increases signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The increase in the state minimum wages are as follows:
Washington State – increased 15 cents to $9.19/hr
Arizona – increased 15 cents to $7.80/hr
Colorado – increased 14 cents to $7.78/hr
Florida – increased 2 cents to $7.69/hr
Missouri – increased 10 cents to $7.35/hr
Montana – increased 15 cents to $7.80/hr
Ohio – increased 15 cents to $7.85/hr
Oregon – increased 15 cents to $8.95/hr
Rhode Island – increased 30 cents to $7.75/hr
Vermont – increased 14 cents to $8.60/hr
Except for Rhode Island’s minimum wage increase approved by their Legislature last year, the rest of the increases were the result of state laws indexed to inflation and the consumer price index. Nevada, which also adjusts their minimum wage based on inflation, makes their changes on July 1st and is not included in the current list above.
Washington state was the first state to index their minimum wage to inflation when they passed Initiative 688 in 1998. Oregon followed with an initiative in 2002 and Florida in 2004. In 2006 there was a big push nationally to index the minimum wage to inflation, with voters in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Ohio passing minimum wage initiatives.
The US Department of Labor has a color coded map which breaks out state’s minimum wages by categories. Amazingly five states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina – have no state minimum wage laws. Four states – Georgia, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Wyoming – have a state minimum wage lower than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Twenty states have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and the rest of the states set their minimum wage at the Federal level.
Legislation has been before Congress to try to index the federal minimum wage to inflation, the same as Washington State does, but Republicans in Congress have prevented action on moving the legislation. Congress has a dismal record on dealing with increasing the Federal minimum wage. As the Labor Law Center notes, Congress increased the minimum wage to $5.15 in 1997. It took another 10 years to increase it to $5.85 in June of 2007, then $6.55 in June of 2008 and $7.25 in June of 2009. It has not increased since then.
As noted in the Huffington Post article:
Last year, Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives introduced legislation known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would have raised the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour after three years and indexed it to inflation. Those bills failed and are expected to be reintroduced in the coming Congress, although the Republican-controlled House is unlikely to pass an increase to the minimum wage.
President Barack Obama, while campaigning in 2008, pledged to hike the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and index it by the end of 2011, “to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage,” as he said on his transition website. Obama ultimately failed on that pledge and hasn’t been vocal on the issue since his initial campaign. As EPI has noted, if the federal minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since its high in the late 1960′s, it would now be above $10 per hour.
Further action can be taken on the state level via both legislative efforts and initiative efforts. For example, as Minnesota Public Radio reports, the new legislative majority in Minnesota has prioritized raising their minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.
State Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, is sponsoring legislation to increase the minimum wage for large employers by $1.35 an hour to $7.50 an hour, and provide for automatic inflationary increases in the future. “Putting more money in the pockets of minimum wage earners is good for the whole economy,” Eaton said. “The money is going to be spent in local businesses, on job training courses and covering rent.”
The Initiative and Referendum Center lists 24 state’s that have the initiative process. While it is more difficult in some states than others to get on the ballot, there are 15 additional states that could pass state minimum wage initiatives that are indexed to inflation. They are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. A couple of big states like California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Michigan passing new state minimum wage initiatives indexed to inflation would give a big boost to efforts to enact such legislation in Congress.
Minimum wage legislation indexed to inflation is a progressive issue and could certainly boost turnout of Democratic voters in key states and help elect a more Democratic Congress keyed to helping average citizens rather than boosting corporate profits and concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. This is something to keep in mind regarding the 2014 and 2016 elections where members of the House and Senate are running.
Also as Henry Ford knew when he paid his workers higher wages than other industries, he was providing them with income to buy his cars. People working at or near minimum wages are barely getting by and are not going to put their money in a savings account. They are going to spend it which keeps the money in circulation stimulating the economy. This helps everyone.
Tags2008 Elections August 18 2009 Primary Barack Obama BIAW Bush campaign disclosure campaign finance Chris Gregoire congress Democrats Dino Rossi elections endorsements fuel efficiency standards George Bush global warming Governor Gregoire Hillary Clinton I-1033 Ingraham High School initiative 1033 Initiative 1053 initiatives John McCain King County Democrats No on 1033 No on I-1033 Peter Goldmark Presidential election Property Taxes Public Disclosure Commission Republicans Save the Trees - Seattle Seattle City Council Seattle School Board Seattle School District Senator Cantwell Tim Eyman Trees Urban Forestry US Senate US Supreme Court Washington State Washington State Legislature Washington State Supreme Court
- BREAKING: A section of the Interstate 5 bridge over Skagit River has collapsed
- Washington’s elected leaders respond to collapse of I-5 bridge over Skagit River
- U.S. House passes bill to take decision on Keystone XL pipeline out of president’s hands
- Monster tornado rips through Moore, Oklahoma, killing at least thirty-seven people
- Christy Clark declares victory in B.C., but trails the NDP’s David Eby in her own riding