Tag Archives: initiatives

It’s Initiative 953, No its Initiative 954, No its Initiative 960

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.

Minimum Wage Initiatives win Big Across Country

This year there were six states that had initiatives on the ballot to increase their state minimum wage. And in all six states, voters passed them by wide margins. What is also significant is that the state minimum wages were also indexed to increase as inflation increases.

This is significant because in the past voters or legislatures raised the minimum wage, only to have workers see its value diminish each year as inflation increased living costs. Then the battle would have to be fought all over again.

This happened in Washington State. In 1988 after continued inaction by the Washington State Legislature, a coalition of groups, including the Washington State Labor Council, in 1988 got Initiative 518 passed. It raised the minimum wage to $4.90. Despite repeated attempts in the state legislature this remained the minimum wage for the next 10 years.

So in 1998 Washington citizens again had to file and pass an initiative to raise the minimum wage. But this time the coalition was wiser, not wanting to have to repeat this cycle over and over of going to the legislature and being ignored as inflation increased living costs but the minimum wage stayed the same and then having to run another initiative. This time the initiative was written to index the minimum wage to inflation.

Initiative 668 supporters collected some 288,357 signatures and put the measure on the Nov. 1998 ballot. I-688 overwhelmingly passed with a 66.14% approval to 33.86% disapproval.

Washington State was the first state to pass a minimum wage increase indexed to inflation. Initiative 688 to the people raised the minimum wage from $4.90 to $5.70 in 1999 and then to $6.50 in 2000.

Increases after that were calculated each Sept 30th using the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers and went into effect Jan 1st of the following year.

This year the minimum wage is $7.63. On Jan 1, 2007 it will increase 30 cents to $7.93.

State Minimum Wage initiatives passing this year:

Arizona ….. $6.75 …….passed… 66% to 34%
Colorado …. $6.85 …….passed… 53% to 47%
Missouri …. $6.50 …….passed… 76% to 24%
Montana ….. $6.15 …….passed… 73% to 27%
Nevada …… $6.15 …….passed… 69% to 31%
Ohio …….. $6.85 …….passed… 56% to 44%

Meanwhile the Federal minimum wage is stuck at $5.15. It has not increased since 1997. Legislation to increase the Federal minimum wage was killed by Republicans in campaign politics earlier this year. The newly elected Democratic majority in Congress has vowed to raise the minimum wage in January.

Current language does not include indexing the minimum wage increase to inflation. Congress needs to do this to be fair to working class families. Their own pay is indexed to inflation.
see http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa031200a.htmA cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it.”

Write or email or call Congress and urge that they index the minimum wage to inflation. Don’t hold workers hostage to future Congresses. Minimum wage workers deserve better.

previous posts by MajorityRulesBlog:
Senator Cantwell Opposes Republican’s Attempt to cut Washington’s Minimum Wage
US Representatives Reichert, McMorris and Hastings Vote to Cut Washington’s Minimum Wage
for further history and analysis of Washington State’s Minimum Wage also check out the Economic Opportunity Institute’s excellent collection of policy briefs, issue papers, and other links on this issue.

McKenna’s Legal Opinion on Ballot Petitions Aids and Abets This Year’s Right Wing Initiative Campaigns

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna has written a nonsensical legal opinion on ESHB 1222 that will help right wing initiatives this year. ESHB 1222, “to increase the accountability of ballot measure petitions”, was passed last year by the Washington State Legislature to require that petition gatherers sign a declaration on the back of each petition signifying they got the signatures. The reason was to reduce fraud.

McKenna‘s opinion is that the bill does not really require an initiative signature gatherer to sign each petition, even though that is what the bill says. McKenna‘s opinion, unless challenged, will allow this year’s crop of mostly right wing initiatives to avoid the consequences of having any petitions rejected that do not have signed declarations.

McKenna‘s opinion was in response a request for an opinion by Republican Representative Toby Nixon at the time it was revealed that Tim Eyman‘s first printing of I-917 contained a declaration by the petitioner that could be easily overlooked and not signed. At the time we commented that the petitions would need to be carefully checked to ensure that the petitioners actually signed the sheets.

McKenna‘s opinion is a tortured exercise in how to help your friends like Tim Eyman (Initiative 917 to cut transportation funding), Denis Falk and Martin Selig (Initiative 920 to repeal the estate tax that goes to education funding in this state) and the Farm Bureau and Colorado based Americans for Limited Government (Initiative 933 to overturn neighborhood zoning and growth management).

It would not surprise me if McKenna ran his opinion by his in house BIAW lawyer he hired and also the lawyer who wrote the biased ballot title for Initiative 933. They may be the same person. Why do I say that? I can only speculate, but McKenna‘s opinion is that Engrossed House Bill 1222, passed by last year’s Washington State Legislature, really doesn’t mean anything. And I find that hard to believe.

Mc Kenna has gone out of his way, to circumvent the will of the Legislature, to try to prevent this bill from being implemented as written. One has to wonder if Eyman messed up so bad that the only way not to invalidate hundreds of petitions was to try to bypass this law. Or maybe its just that McKenna‘s heart is not in really protecting the initiative process from fraud but is instead in protecting the right wing petition factory industry.

As passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Gregoire, ESHB 1222 specifically says that

The following declaration must be printed on the reverse side of the petition:
I, . . . . . . . . . . . ., swear or affirm under penalty of law that I circulated this sheet of the foregoing petition, and that, to the best of my knowledge, every person who signed this sheet of the foregoing petition knowingly and without any compensation or promise of compensation willingly signed his or her true name and that the information provided therewith is true and correct. I further acknowledge that under chapter 29A.84 RCW, forgery of signatures on this petition constitutes a class C felony, and that offering any
consideration or gratuity to any person to induce them to sign a petition is a gross misdemeanor, such violations being punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.

That seems pretty straight forward and Secretary of State Sam Reed thought so also. He posted on his website the required language and said it would make the law meaningless to require the provisions of the new law and then accept petitions with unsigned declarations

In his booklet , Filing Initiatives and Referenda in Washington State, he said

On the reverse side of every petition page, must be the declaration by the signature gatherer as required by RCW 29A.72.110, RCW29A.72.120 or RCW 29A.72.130. This act takes effect January 1, 2006 and requires the following declaration:

I,_______________________, swear or affirm under penalty of law that I circulated this sheet of the foregoing petition, …”

Reed has a line instead of dots so it is much more obvious that there is a place for someone to sign, and also says”declaration by the signature gatherer…” How can there be a declaration if one doesn’t sign?

But believe it or not McKenna somehow spends 12 pages arguing that no signature is required. McKenna says that he looked at the legislative record to reach his conclusion but he did so selectively. He tries by length to argue his position. But in this case length does not denote legal brilliance but rather tortured twisted reasoning. For example he ignores the statements posted on the Washington State Legislature’s bill history page for ESHB 1222 that seem to tell a different story about the intent of the bill.

For example, the bill digest says:

Requires that the following declaration must be printed on the reverse side of the petition:
I, . . . . . . . . . . . ., swear or affirm under penalty of law that I circulated this sheet of the foregoing petition, …”

Was I being confused by what these words meant? I decided to look up what the legal definition of “declaration” was. Here is the definition from law.co:

declaration – “a written statement made “under penalty of perjury” and signed by the declarant, which is the modern substitute for the more cumbersome affidavit, which requires swearing to its truth before a notary public.”

I think it is key that it says a declaration is signed. McKenna says the “2005 amendments do not include a place to sign. Nor do the 2005 amendments contain any language expressly requiring that the declaration be signed …”

Really. It certainly looks and reads like one is expected to sign. That is what a declaration is. And that is how the Secretary of State interpreted it also.What is not clear? Is McKenna mimicking Bush’s signing statements where Bush says he does not intend to comply with selected bills as written by Congress? Is McKenna doing the same with this legislation?

McKenna says that the amendments do not specify “the consequences of failure to fill out and sign the declaration” That I can’t understand at all because failure to sign means the petitions are not as required by the new law. Without a signature by the petitioner, they would not have a declaration. They thus would be rejected. This is how Sam Reed read it and I think his logic is clear.

McKenna argues that because previous bills in prior sessions contained versions of signed and notarized declarations, then the Legislature choosing a non-notarized procedure meant their desire was to have a statement on the petition that was not meant to be signed. Come again?

As the law.com definition noted, notarized statements are cumbersome and an added burden and the written signed declaration was the “modern substitute for the more cumbersome affidavit” according to law.com.

McKenna also argues that since two sponsors of the bill made contradictory statements on the House floor that they canceled each other out. Maybe it just that the prime sponsor understood the legal aspects of the bill and Rep Nixon did not.

Rep McDermott is quoted on the House floor as saying, “…the Senate has amended this bill to require that the person gathering the signatures actually has to sign the back of the petition…”.

Meanwhile Rep Nixon did not seem to be clear on what the bill did and thought that “It also does not invalidate the petitions forms if the signature is not provided by the circulator” So McKenna, seemingly because of erroneous statements by Rep Nixon as to what the bill did, uses those erroneous statements to say no signature is required?

It seems to me that the words speak for themselves.” I, ____________, swear or affirm under penalty of law that I circulated this sheet of the foregoing petition,…” What is not clear about these words?

Ironically, McKenna at the end of his discussion mentions a Colorado law, upheld in the Federal Courts, which threw out petitions because a signed affidavit by petitioners did not include the required language. McKenna agrees on this point and says the Secretary of State can reject petitions if they do not have the required language, but it is OK if they are not signed. I do not understand this reasoning and feel that if this issue goes to Court that McKenna‘s opinion will be voided. His line of reasoning is flawed when one reads the actual wording and reads what is posted on the Legislative website about this bill.

South Dakota Shows Washington State the Progressive Use of the Initiative and Referendum Process

Here in Washington State there have been a spate of liberal moaners complaining about conservatives putting initiatives and referendums on the ballot. One of the most recent is an attempt by conservative churches and a for profit ballot initiative promoter to get signatures for Referendum 65. Referendum 65 is an attempt to repeal a recently passed state law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The group opposed to R-65 is Washington Won’t Discriminate.

In South Dakota, citizens have shown why there is a need for the initiative and referendum process as a safeguard and that it can also work for progressives. The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families has turned in over 38,416 signatures, more than 20,000 over the minimum 16,278 needed, to place HB 1215 on the November ballot. HB 1215 would have banned all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. To learn more about their campaign and to make a contribution contact Focus: South Dakota

South Dakota shows us why the initiative and referendum process is needed and that progressives need to get involved in the issues, rather than bemoan the process. You can either let conservatives dominate the ballot or progressives can push their own measures and have the conservatives on the defensive. Recently progressives have been on the defense because they have not been using the initiative process as much to promote progressive causes. As a result they have had to spend a lot of their time and money trying to ward off conservative attacks from bad initiatives.

South Dakota was the first state to adopt the initiative and referendum process. They did so in 1898. Since then they have enacted 17 initiatives and rejected 31. Their first successful initiative dealt with a state primary system. In 1980 they rejected an initiative that would have banned the Legislature from changing any voter passed initiative. Initiatives that passed included voter approval of nuclear waste disposal compacts, banning corporate hog farms, and prohibiting mourning dove hunting.

Washington first enacted its initiative and referendum process in 1912. Of 912 initiatives to the people filed through last year, 125 have made it onto the ballot. 63 have passed and 62 have failed. Of 354 initiatives to the legislature filed, 28 were certified. 18 passed and 13 failed. The following history is from the national Initiative and Referendum Institute’s website.

In 1907 the state’s organized labor and farm groups cooperated with the Direct Legislation League in deluging the legislature with petitions calling for statewide I&R. Soon after, the I&R bill introduced by State Rep. Glenn N. Ranck of Vancouver passed the lower house 66 to 26, but the state senate defeated it 25 to 15. An I&R supporter noted that “just two forces” opposed I&R: “special privileged corporation interests and the organized liquor traffic,” the latter because it feared voters would enact a Prohibition initiative.

The state Federation of Labor, whose president was Charles Case, and the state Grange, whose “master” (i.e., president) was C. B. Kegley, formed a Joint Legislative Committee that finally got the I&R amendment through both houses of the legislature in 1911. However, the version passed by the legislature did not allow voters to initiate state constitutional amendments, because certain state senators, with the active support of Governor Hay, insisted that an amendment receive at least 60 percent of all votes cast in a general election in order to pass. The pro-I&R committee refused to accept this compromise, and over 70 years later, there is still no provision for initiatives to amend the state constitution in Washington. Voters ratified the legislature’s I&R bill by a five to two margin in 1912, and in the same election, George Cotterill was elected mayor of Seattle.

While by no means complete, the Initiative and Referendum Institute notes some major legislation enacted in Washington by the initiative process, including statewide prohibition (later repealed), establishing a redistricting commission, establishing Public Utility Districts, setting up the statewide civil service system, requiring that drunk drivers take a breath test, setting a retailer interest rate lid, requiring shorelines management, and requiring that toxic waste cleanup be paid for by polluters.

Others not mentioned in the above list include requiring voter approval before bonds can be issued for large public power projects, establishing a state Presidential primary, the blanket primary system (recently overturned by the courts), permanent voter registration, non-partisan school elections, authorizing joint tenancy in property, providing for Daylight Savings Time, setting up campaign financial disclosure requirements, removing the sales tax on food, increasing the state’s minimum wage, reducing school class size, increasing teachers’ pay, requiring hazardous waste cleanup at Hanford and doing performance audits.

A more complete list of these can be seen at the Washington Secretary of State’s links for initiatives to the people.and initiatives to the legislature that have been approved. The point here is that lots of quality and needed legislation that we take for granted only came about because of the initiative process. While we bemoan conservative efforts to reduce taxes and cut services and protections, that is to be expected. But lots of progressive issues have also gone to the voters. The voters ultimately decide. But if we don’t put progressive issues before the voters, we concede the playing field to our opponents.

On the issue of abortion, Washington state voters re-affirmed a woman’s right to choose in this state with passage of Initiative 120 in 1991. The initiative effort at the time was controversial because it was not like in South Dakota where rights had been repealed by the Legislature. Here it was a conscious decision to have voters affirm that this was what they wanted. It was a calculated risk of putting the issue to the voters at that time. It was successful after a hard fought campaign but it did part of what initiatives do – they educate voters as to the issues and let them make a choice. They set the political debate.

The ballot title for I-120 was very direct “Shall state abortion laws be revised, including declaring a woman’s right to choose physician performed abortion prior to fetal viability?” The vote outcome showed a divided state then but the initiative passed. Some 756,653 voted to approve the measure; some 752,354 voted to not approve. The percentages are 50.01% to 49.86%.

Progressives prevailed partly because they set up what was to be voted on, rather than letting conservatives define the issues and strategy. That is what we need to do more of. Just as we can not ignore the Washington State Legislature and only respond to oppose bills we don’t like; we can not ignore the initiative process and only get active when there is something we oppose.

We need to be actively promoting legislation both in the Legislature and by initiative. Efforts by the environmental community in the Legislature with proactive bills being passed for the last 2 years shows that success is possible. This year’s effort to get Initiative 937 on the ballot also represents a proactive stance. Initiative 937 promotes the use of renewable energy and decreases our dependence on foreign oil. We need to help insure its success by helping it meet its signature deadline. Help out by contacting the campaign at Yes on 937 They need help collecting signatures and also contributions to fund their efforts.

Is This the Year of the Donkey for Washington State?

Anger at Bush May Hurt GOP at Polls reads a headline yesterday in the Washington Post. This was what Democrats thought would put Kerry into the White House two years ago. Will it work this year in Washington State?

The most recent Washington Post – ABC poll shows a 47% “strong disapproval” by voters of Bush’s job performance. Only 20% “strongly approve”. In comparison President Clinton’s highest “strong disapproval” rating was 37%.

Since Bush is not on the ballot, the best way for voters to show their anger at Bush is to vote his Republican Congressional cronies who have unflinchingly supported his policies out of office. By contrast in the 2002 midterm congressional elections, Bush had 42% of the voters “strongly approving” of him versus only 20% “strongly disapproving”. Democrats lost seats which was historically unusual.

The key is strength of passion- what motivates people to make that extra effort to vote.

Yet the issue for Congressional races turns more often on local candidates and issues. There have been very few seats turned over by incumbents over time. In fact the historical average has been that 98% of incumbents get reelected.

As Mark Mellman in The Hill suggests, this inertia to change can be affected by several things, including the past vote for Presidents.

The year 1994 was a big one for Republicans in Congress. Yet of the 34 seats the Democrats lost, the Republican Presidential candidate in the previous two elections had won 30. Likewise in the big change in 1982, 2/3 of the Republican incumbents who lost were in districts the Democratic Presidential candidate had won previously.

Mellman says that in this election cycle only 18 incumbent Republicans are in districts that Kerry won. By the way, one of these is the eighth Congressional District, where Darcy Burner, a Democrat is taking on first term incumbent Republican Dave Reickert.

While open seats can also be a factor, in years of major change it may not be as significant a factor. In 1992, only 37% of the seats the Democrats lost were open seats.

So certainly a lot rides on whether voters are rearing for a change. Unknowns that can change things quickly include changes in Iraq, like Bush withdrawing troops.

In addition factors in Washington state include emotional hotbutton issues like certain initiatives. The referendum to overturn the ban on gay discrimination and developer Initiative 933 to limit most zoning and growth management and Eyman’s Initiative 917 to cut transportation funding are all issues that pull out conservatives and Republicans.

Adam Nagourney writes in last Sunday’s New York Times that this is part of the Republican strategy. Entitled, “Looking to win in November, with a 2-year old Playbook” he notes that Carl Rove’s game plan in 2004 was to woo the religious right and other conservatives by appealing to their emotions. They did this successfully by a series of state initiatives to ban gay marriage coordinated with efforts to turn out church goers.

This year it may be tougher but Washington’s developer’s initiative 933 is not alone. Conservatives are also gathering signatures on similar initiatives on so called private property rights in California, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Oregon (again) according to the NY Times.

And another issue is also rising – immigration. Democrats meanwhile are slow in using initiatives to increase turnout of their base. This year Washington state has one measure – Initiative 937 – the Energy Security Initiative to increase use of renewable energy that is collecting signatures to get on the ballot. Meanwhile with Eyman’s so called $30 tabs initiative 917, which reduces transportation funds; the developer initiative 933 – to end zoning as we know it; and the referendum to repeal the anti discrimination legislation passed by the Legislature, Democrats are having to wage three defensive efforts.

I think Democrats need to get more active and work to help set the agenda by running their own initiatives in the future, particularly in 2008 to help draw out the progressive base. They need to quit crying about the conservatives putting initiatives on the ballot and put their own on. Voters are not going to repeal the initiative process in Washington state. Put the conservatives on the defense.

Meanwhile Senator Cantwell, who has been running into criticism from some progressive activists need to engage them more. Because to win she needs to turn out motivated voters and right now there are too many being unreasonably purist in their criticism. But they are family, family she needs to win and that requires special efforts. And they need her to win if we want to stop the Bush Cheney railroading of America into just one giant corporation where we only have two classes, the superrich and the rest of us.

Washington Initiative Process not the Problem!

It seems that the in thing to do these days in Washington State is to criticize the initiative process as what is wrong. That misses the larger picture.

Over on Horsesass.org Goldy continues to pitch for so called “initiative reform” as if that will send the Tim Eyman’s and Farm Bureau’s and Evergreen Legal Foundation’s running with their tails between their legs and we’ll never see them again.

The attack on the initiative being focused on the initiative process rather than the issues and voters involvement means focusing on small details rather than viewing the larger picture. What is needed are more voters who take signing the initiative seriously. It requires that they take the time to read and understand what it is they are signing in support of before they sign.

The initiative is a legal process, written into the Washington State Constitution – a right of voters to petition either the citizens or the Legislature to enact a law to address concerns of a voter or voters. Getting voters to sign to put an initiative on the ballot is akin to getting sponsors on a bill being introduced in the Legislature. The same as sponsors of a legislative bill are saying to fellow legislators, please vote for this bill, signers of an initiative are helping those who wrote ther initiative ask voters to support their initiative.

While there is no legal requirement on the number of sponsors on a bill, the initiative process requires that at least 8% of those who voted in the last Governor’s race sign the initiative. Voters need to view their signature as being akin to being a sponsor of the initiative.

Signers of an initiative are, by signing the initiative, indicating their support for the initiative by asking that this issue be put on the ballot. Printed on all initiatives are the following words “We, the undersigned citizens and legal voters of the state of Washington, respectfully direct that the proposed measure known as Initiative …(ballot title)… a full, true, and correct copy of which is printed on the reverse side of this petition, be submitted to the legal voters of the state of Washington for their approval or rejection at the general election to be held on …”

As a result of signing, among other things, voters are asking the state to commit state tax dollars to verify that an adequate number of registered voters have signed the measure. They are asking state taxpayer dollars be used to put the measure on the ballot and to commit state and local taxpayer dollars to hold the election, count and certify the election results. By signing an initiative, whether they understood it or not, voters are committing tax dollars to aid in the passage of an initiative.

Signers, by default of signing, are also letting the sponsors of the initiative use their signature as a sign that the initiative has their support and the support of thousands of others. Signers are not just signing to put this measure on the ballot. Sponsors of an initiative use the number of signers as an indication that voters see the need for this new legislation.

The problem is that many voters do not know what they are signing because they have not read the text of the initiative on the back of the petition. Too often they believe what a paid out of state signature gatherer tells them about the measure.

While we in Washington State have to live with the law if the initiative passes, the paid signature gatherer is off in some other state collecting signatures. We wouldn’t sign to buy a used car without understanding what it is we are signing yet voters repeatedly sign measures, without reading the fine print, that can have wide ranging impacts on their daily lives. Examples this year include measures to eliminate zoning for developers and reduce tax dollars for transportation. (The sponsors of these measures say they are to prevent government from taking your property and for $30 license tabs)

The mistake that progressives and others made regarding Tim Eyman’s anti-tax initiatives was ignoring the fact that he was and is running his initiative mill year round – 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days out of the year. You can not let someone organize and work the media that way and the grassroots that long and expect to come in a month before the election and spend a few dollars and stop him.

Fighting bad initiatives and bad policy and wrong headed ideas requires year round response. It requires rebuttal. It requires vigiliance and involvement. It requires that we proposeĀ  . It requires offense as well as defense. So far progressives and Democrats and labor and good government groups and others have been playing a lot of defense, but defense at best means things stay the same, and any score by the opposition means you lose.

So it’s necessary to be active, to participate, to commit time and effort and money and go on the offense. At best so called “initiative reforms” are likely to be few and only slightly change the rules.

The calls for initiative reform are not what is needed. It’s like crying “Three strikes and you’re out? What do you mean, we need 4 strikes before you’re out.” Meanwhile the other side is continuing to play.

Crying you don’t like the rules is not going to beat the opposition which continues to play. Get with the game folks! Its still being played.

Fighting Eyman Style Initiatives

Eyman has filed a slew of initiatives this year but will probably concentrate on two. One is to reduce car license tabs to $30 and the other will be to overturn the just signed anti-discrimination legislation on sexual orientation.

The best way to respond to Eyman type initiatives is to practice free speech whenever you see someone trying to collect signatures. The signature gatherer will probably be on Tim’s payroll of $1 or $2 a signature since after his first initiative he has had to pay to get his initiatives on the ballot. He doesn’t have any real horde of volunteers although he wants people to believe he does.

Stand 5 or 10 feet away and start telling people not to sign the initiative as it is controversial and people don’t support it. Ask people to read the initiative first before they sign, which they are allowed to do by law and should. Paid signature gatherers usually hide the actual text (which is printed on the back of the initiative) from the public because people reading the initiative while they are asking people to sign, stops people from signing.

Do not get into an argument with the signature gatherer and do not stop people from signing if they still want to. But you are allowed to speak all you want and encourage people not to sign. That is free speech. Try it and you’ll be amazed at how effective you can be in persuading people not to sign.

The petition gatherer will probably try to get away from you but as long as you are in a public area you can continue to exercise your right of free speech near him or her as long as you do not physically stop people from signing if they want to. Probably most won’t since most people like to avoid controversy and will walk away.