Tag Archives: Washington State Legislature

Big Oil Loves Tim Eyman

Big Oil loves Tim Eyman.  They love him so much they’re have given him $200,000 this year to protect their corporate profits and tax loopholes from the Washington State Legislature. They love it that he helped them two years ago prevent the Legislature from asking them to help clean up oil polluted stormwater in our state. They love it that voters said the Legislature needed a 2/3 vote to tax corporations and end profitable tax loopholes they have.

Eyman is busy carrying their water as he scurries to pay his minions to get signatures on I-1185 his “son” of 1053. I-1053 was passed by voters in 2010 and said the Legislature needed to get a 2/3 vote in both houses to raise new revenue or close any tax loopholes. For 2 years after an initiative passes it takes a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to amend an initiative. After that it takes a simple majority.

So Eyman is trying to put I-1185 before the voters to reset the clock for another 2 years.

The 2/3 vote requirement initially was in I-601 and then in I-960.  Both these measures barely passed 51% to 49%. Two years ago in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression and with high unemployment the measure passed with a 64% vote after opponents waited until the last few weeks to try to oppose it but it was too late.

Now voters can see the consequences of a no new taxes proposal which is what I-1185 is and what I-1053 is.  Austerity so to speak is another w0rd for protecting corporate profits while cutting services to the elderly, the sick and young kids.  Corporate interests like BP and Conoco Phillips continue to rack up huge profits and contribute to the increased concentration  of wealth in the hands of the few.

On April 4, 2012 BP Oil out of Chicago gave Eyman $100,000. Eyman immediately passed it on to his buddy Roy Ruffino at Citizen Solutions out of Olympia.  Citizen Solutions is paying signature gatherers $1.00 per signature and pocketing a fee for itself of course.

BP last year reported a net profit of $23.9 billion. $ 100,000 is peanuts to BP.

On April 20, 2012 Conoco Phillips added another $100,000,  Small peanuts to them also that they  can write off as a business expense. After expenses Conoco Phillips reported a 1st quarter Jan – March 2012 profit of $2.94 billion.

Isn’t it great that if you are a big corporation and you can buy yourself a place on the ballot and you can have friends like Tim Eyman to help you fool the public into supporting your corporate profits at the expense of diminishing public services that benefit the public.

Don’t sign I-1185!  Don’t support Big Oil’s power grab of the Washington State Legislature. Big Oil is not concerned about the well being of Washington State or its citizens. They are only concerned about increasing the bottom line of their business and their shareholders.

 

 

 

Feedback Wanted on Proposed WA Legislative Bill on Tax Expenditure Reform

Changes are needed in the ability of the Washington State Legislature to fund basic services like education and healthcare. The current state budget problems are made more difficult by the lack of flexibility of the Legislature to make decisions by a majority vote as directed by the Washington State Constitution and by a tax expenditure/exemption process that is shielded from legislative oversight by virtue of not being part of the normal budget process.

Many people are frustrated by the current stalemate in the legislative process and want more choices than just throwing up their hands and suffering more cuts in state services and more costs to working families. More options are needed for the voters than just saying we have no real choices.

Accordingly draft legislation has been written that could be a bill in the Legislature with a referendum clause for the voters or that could be a citizens  initiative for the Fall ballot if the Legislature doesn’t act..  The legislation is called  the Washington State Taxpayers Fiscal Reform Act.  You can see a draft copy for comment located here: http://www.majorityrules.org/?attachment_id=814

We are now circulating this draft for public comment and revision. I would appreciate your review of this draft  and any suggested revisions you might have.
The Taxpayers Fiscal Reform Act would:
1.  Allow the Legislature to repeal tax exemptions by a majority vote by repealing the current unconstitutional 2/3 voting requirement.
2. Add tax expenditures into the biennial  budget process.
3.  Require the Legislature to rank all spending, including tax expenditures as high, medium or low priority in meeting state needs.
4.  Require that the Legislature must act to reaffirm all tax expenditures after they have been audited by the state or they will sunset.
5. Limit any authorization or reauthorization of a tax expenditure to 10 years.
Please return all comments on the draft to Steve Zemke at the e-mail address below.
Thanks,
Steve Zemke – Chair
King County Democrats

Why Initiative 1053 needs to be Overturned by the Courts

The 2/3 vote requirement rule for the Washington State Legislature to act on revenue measures  imposed by Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 needs to be overturned. Everyone acts as if it is law, including most of the Washington State Legislators, but it is unconstitutional. The issue is before the Washington Court system and needs to be resolved.

I-1053 has created a crisis for our state. It  has limited the options of our state government to address our current  financial crisis. The result is that the state is being forced to continue to cut basic services like education and health care. It is driving the crisis into a downward spiral.

The state has already cut it’s budget by $10 billion and is facing another $2 billion in cuts just to balance its current budget.

The I-1053 campaign is just another example of misguided anti-government legislation that unfortunately has an opposite effect from what many voters thought they were voting on. They bought the rhetoric thinking it was good for the average citizen in this state.

However it was  Big Business and Corporate interests in this state that saw the measure for what it was – another opening to consolidate their power over the State Legislature. Corporations like the Bank of America and BP saw that this so called rule gave them virtual immunity from the threat of seeing their special interest tax exemptions being repealed once Eyman’s definition of a tax increase included repeal of tax exemptions. Voters missed this.

The Legislature over the years has passed special interest tax exemptions with a simple majority vote of 50%. These tax exemptions now exceed revenue from collected taxes. These tax exemptions are really expenditures of state money that if not in place could be used for other purposes like educating our youth and creating jobs. I-1053 has essentially grandfathered existing tax exemptions in permanently. That is because a 2/3 vote in both houses is needed to repeal them. This is almost impossible to do, considering that special interests only need to secure the votes of 17 Legislators out of 147 to stop a revenue measure being passed.

I-1053 also makes it almost impossible to raise any taxes on business. So the State is left with essentially one option to pay its bills and balance the budget – cutting programs.  Unfortunately for Washington residents, cutting means ending services and jobs  that benefit the majority of Washington voters, especially the middle class and working families.

It’s time to take back the Legislature from the special interests and reject the 2/3 voting requirement. There is a basic constitutional issue here.  What has happened is that on revenue issues, I-1053 is saying that if Legislators are for revenue increases or repealing tax exemptions, their vote only counts as half a vote, rather than a full vote, in trying to pass measures. Nothing in the Constitution says that this is the case or that this is allowed.

I-1053 was an initiative, not a constitutional amendment.  You can not change the constitution with an initiative.  The Washington State Constitution says that bills shall be passed by majority votes, not by 2/3 votes. I-1053 is unconstitutional and the courts need to reject it so the state can address it’s financial problems without special interests calling the shots.

The people also need to reject any further measures by Eyman trying to reaffirm I-1053. He will be running another one in 2012.  The reason for this is that for the first two years  after an initiative is passed, it takes a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to amend it. After that it is a majority vote.   By passing another 1053 type initiative, it would extend for two more years the inability of the Legislature to amend the 2/3 vote requirement. Voters need to understand that I-1053 style initiatives requiring a 2/3 vote to pass revenue measures benefits special interests a lot more than the average voter.

It’s time to reject the 2/3 vote requirement and take back the Legislature from the special interests.

Press Release – Balance Budget by Ending Tax Breaks and Raising Revenue

NEWS RELEASE

October 27, 2011

CONTACT: Anne Martens

206-902-7181

BALANCE BUDGET BY ENDING TAX BREAKS AND RAISING REVENUE

Coalition calls on lawmakers to cut corporate welfare

instead of cutting our jobs and our families

In response to Governor Gregoire’s report on the devastation expected from another $2 billion in state budget cuts, members of the Our Economic Future coalition are asking lawmakers to stand up for Washington families by ending unfair tax breaks and raising revenue. (People affected by the cuts will be available for comment outside the Governor’s office in Olympia between 10am and noon)

“It’s not fair to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. These cuts hit hardest on those most at risk and set our state down a path of deepening poverty and increased homelessness,” said Rachael Myers (206-442-9455) of the Washington LowIncome Housing Alliance.

“More cuts add insult to injury,” said Jon Gould (206-324-0340 x 19) of the Children’s Alliance. “With 58,000 more children in poverty in our state – enough to fill 2,320 classrooms – these cuts couldn’t come at a worse time for our state’s kids.”

During the last legislative session, the coalition pushed for eliminating tax breaks like the ones that benefit out-of-state banks and private jet owners. Since regular session ended, both an official legislative audit committee and a citizen’s committee agreed that Washington hands out too much corporate welfare in the form of tax breaks, and that many of those loopholes should be closed.

Two-thirds of legislators would have to work together in order to close any tax loopholes. Because such cooperation is considered unlikely, the coalition may ask for a referendum to the people.

“We are the 99 percent,”said Anne Martens, spokesperson for the coalition. “Are tax breaks for big banks more important than our children’s future? Most people would say no.”

Coming on top of the $10 billion that has already been slashed from our public services, this latest round of cuts will have devastating effects on Washington families and on our ability to recover from the recession.

“Child care providers like me make sure that parents can go to work,” said Kathy Yasi, a small business owner and SEIU925 member. “Cutting programs like Working Connections forces parents to give up their jobs and pushes them to rely even more on public programs. It’s backwards.”

While slashing public services appears to save money in the short-run, in fact it adds to the rolls of people who need those services, at a time when both our families and our public services are already overstretched.

“Everyone feels the effects of this economic crisis, but some of our neighbors—particularly children of color–feel it worse. Lawmakers need to take a balanced approach to the state budget, with a plan for revenue, to make sure our families can survive this economic crisis,” said Mr. Gould.

“It’s time to find revenue solutions if we want to make sure that parents can continue to work and rebuild our economy,” said Ms. Yasi.

People all over Washington are finding it harder and harder to get services or support because prior budget cuts have already closed health clinics, raised tuition, and cut off access to job training, environmental protection and public safety. With few good jobs and an economy still designed to benefit special interests, these service cuts are hitting hardest on those least able to afford it.

Peter Sanderson, a community mental health therapist and SEIU1199NW member, agreed. “So many of the youth I see have lost their mental health care already, and many have become homeless after trying to make it on their own. They are trying so hard to create a positive future, but we leave them on the street. In this kind of economy, we should be investing in programs that help people get back on their feet instead of cutting help when they need it most.”

Ms. Myers notes that, “thousands of families are sleeping on the streets every night and people who never thought they’d need help with housing are now facing the reality that they can’t make ends meet.”

Randy Revelle (206-216-2515) of the Washington State Hospital Association adds that, “these cuts will be felt for years to come. People with serious disabilities and mental illnesses will lose their health coverage. People living with diabetes, congestive heart failure, and psychosis will lose coverage for essential medications. Rural areas could lose all access to obstetrical services, ambulances, and inpatient hospital care. The impacts are staggering.”

An additional $2 billion in cuts could mean:

·     Tuition at community colleges and four-year universities goes up even more.

·     More teachers are laid off and Washington moves towards the biggest class sizes in the nation.

·     All community health clinics will be closed.

·     18,000 home care workers lose their jobs, and the elderly and disabled they care for lose their care and their homes.

·     7,400 criminals are put back on the streets with no supervision.

·     55,000 people lose their alcohol and substance prevention treatment.

·     80,000 people lose their mental health, long-term care and disability services.

While ending unfair tax breaks would not fill our gaping budget hole, it would ward off the worst of the cuts and provide sparse public services for the most vulnerable among us.

In order to really invest in schools, colleges, small businesses and public services that support a strong economy, we need to have a serious discussion about raising revenue.

###

The Our Economic Future Coalition represents more than 150 organizations concerned about deep budget cuts to core services. The Coalition is calling on lawmakers to find a more responsible and balanced approach to closing the current budget gap that includes closing tax loopholes and identifying new sources of revenue. www.oureconomicfuture.org.

It’s Time to Take Back the Legislature!

With the passage of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 last year requiring 2/3 votes of the Legislature to raise revenue, Wall Street interests and their friends were the big winners. Citizens in Washington State were the losers.

The reality is that with the citizen’s help, corporations guaranteed that their special interest loopholes and tax exemptions in Washington State would be continued on and on, without any accountability.  Tax exemptions originally passed with only a majority vote now require a 2/3 vote by both houses of the Legislature to rescind or end. And this is almost impossible to do.

Wall Street and Big Business interests funding the campaign to protect their special interest tax exemptions included JP MORGAN CHASE, BP CORPORATION, BANK OF AMERICA, WELLS FARGO, CONOCO PHILLIPS, US BANK, TESORO COMPANIES INC, AND CHEVERON to name a few.

Why do you think they wanted voters to approve I-1053? It’s an easy answer.

Corporations basically were able to grandfather in their tax exemptions by passage of Initiative 1053. They were able to do this under the camouflage of limiting taxes on average citizens.  The net result is that corporations protected themselves from not just losing their special interest exemptions but it also made it impossible for the Legislature to consider any other revenue coming from these corporations regardless of how much profit they make.

Tax exemptions are expenditures of state money that would otherwise be available to fund basic services like education, health care, transportation or environmental protection. Tax exemptions need to be included in the state budget just the same as other state expenditures. And they need to have a sunset provision so that unless they are voted on to be renewed, they will automatically expire. Sunset provisions could vary from 4 to 8 years.

Tax exemptions should not be a permanent entitlement of special interests and corporations. Their continuation needed to be evaluated and voted on periodically. Their value to the state’s economy should be prioritized under the guidelines of a priorities of government evaluation.. Their continuation should be ranked as high, medium or low priority, the same as other expenditures in the state budget. When it comes time to create a state budget they should be considered the same as any other expenditure, not exempt as they now are.

This evaluation of tax expenditures is a function that the State Auditor could perform the same as is done with other programs. Tax exemptions that no longer perform a valid function for the State and its citizens should be eliminated.

It’s time now for citizens to take back their Legislature from the corporations.  Giving  corporations special rules to prevent their tax exemptions from being repealed by requiring higher voting requirements is contrary to the Washington State Constitution and subverts the citizen’s legislature.. Now is the time to repeal the special treatment the Wall Street interests – the Banks and other Big Corporations – gave themselves under I-1053 and return the Legislature to the people..

We need to go back to the voting system set up by the people for the Legislature by the Washington State Constitution. Passing legislation, including revenue and the state budget should be by a simple majority vote as set in the State Constitution. Requiring a higher number of votes on specific legislation winds up giving a smaller and smaller block of Legislators veto power. That gives Wall Street and Big Businesses and Big Oil power they don’t deserve and diminishes the power of the people to control their government.

It’s time to end Wall Street’s Special Protection.and return the Legislature to the citizens of this state. It’s time to repeal I-1053 and stop the unfair shift of taxation from the wealthy and special interests to the middle class.

Senator Maralyn Chase Advocates Washington State adopt Clawback Provisions

Such a sensible proposal. If tax exemptions to benefit corporations and business interests do not provide a net benefit to Washington State in terms of increasing jobs or retaining jobs, then the tax exemption should be repealed.

As Senator Maralyn Chase mentions, twenty other states currently have some formof clawback provision. It time for Washington State to also do this. We can not afford to be giving gifts to businesses without a net return in value to the state.

Senator Chase notes that tax exemptions shift the tax burden to other businesses that do not get an exemption. If the exemption provides no net benefit to the state and it’s taxpayers, it is unfairly hurting other businesses and hurting the state in its ability to provide other essential services that help in job creation like funding for education and keeping our citizens healthy.

Washington State House of Representatives Reorganizes Committees for 2011-2012 Session

For the 2011-2012 Legislative Session, the Olympia House of Representatives will have 21 Standing Committees:

Agriculture & Natural Resources (AGNR)

Business & Financial Services (BFS)

Capital Budget (CB)

Community Development & Housing (CDH)

Early Learning & Human Services (ELHS)

Education (ED)

Education Appropriations & Oversight (APPE)

Environment (ENVI)

General Government Appropriations & Oversight (APPG)

Health & Human Services Appropriations & Oversight (APPH)

Health Care & Wellness (HCW)

Higher Education (HE)

Judiciary (JUDI)

Labor & Workforce Development (LWD)

Local Government (LG)

Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness (PSEP)

Rules (RUL)

State Government & Tribal Affairs (SGTA)

Technology, Energy & Communications (TEC)

Transportation (TR)

Ways & Means (WAYS)

2011-12 House Standing Committees/Issue Areas

Please note: This is a general description of issue areas considered by committees; not a definitive or exhaustive listing. It is provided solely to assist members in requesting committee assignments.

Agriculture & Natural Resources

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee considers issues relating to agricultural production, marketing, and sales; animal and plant disease control; fisheries and wildlife; forest practices and forest fire protection; water; and mining. The committee also considers the management of certain state-owned lands.

Business & Financial Services

The House Business & Financial Services Committee considers the licensing and regulation of businesses and professions (except for health care professions). The committee also considers issues relating to insurance, including the activities of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency, the solvency of insurance companies, and the rates and practices of insurance companies. Financial services issues include the safety and soundness of state banks and credit unions, the regulation of consumer credit and lending, and the regulation of securities and investments. The committee also considers consumer protection issues relating to motor vehicles, financial services, and insurance.

Capital Budget

The House Capital Budget Committee considers the state capital budget which approves money for the construction and repair of public buildings and for other long-term investments, such as land acquisitions and transfers. In addition, the committee considers state money that is either given or lent to local governments or nonprofit organizations for infrastructure, housing, and cultural and heritage facilities. The committee also considers legislation that authorizes state debt and legislation that affects state buildings and land.

Community Development and Housing


The House Community Development and Housing Committee considers issues relating to the economic and social vitality of communities, including the establishment and operation of special districts that provide community services, community development funding, strategies to build self-sufficiency for low income communities, small business, business assistance and financing, tourism, and trade. Housing issues considered by the committee include the accessibility and affordability of housing, state assistance to low-income housing, housing authorities and the Housing Finance Commission.

Early Learning & Human Services

The House Early Learning and Human Services Committee considers issues relating to early learning from birth to kindergarten, as well as a broad array of issues affecting children and families, including parent education, foster care, dependency, child protective services, child welfare services, children’s mental health and family reconciliation services. The committee also considers family support programs, including TANF and Disability Lifeline, issues relating to persons with developmental disabilities, adults in need of drug and alcohol treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and at risk-youth, youth violence prevention and juvenile offenders.

Education

The House Education Committee considers kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) educational policy and finance issues.

Education Appropriations & Oversight

The House Education Appropriations & Oversight Committee considers issues relating to funding and oversight of early learning, K-12, and higher education programs and agencies and makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, the committee considers bills relating to early learning, K-12 and higher education with limited fiscal impact.

Environment

The House Environment Committee considers issues relating to climate change, renewable energy standards, recycling and solid waste, hazardous waste, toxics, air quality, aquatic lands, oil spill prevention, the State Environmental Policy Act, and parks and recreation. The committee also oversees the Puget Sound Partnership’s activities in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

General Government Appropriations & Oversight

The House General Government Appropriations & Oversight Committee considers issues relating to funding and oversight of general government, natural resources and corrections programs and agencies and makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, the committee considers bills relating to general government, natural resources and corrections with limited fiscal impact.

Health & Human Services Appropriations & Oversight

The House Health and Human Services Appropriations & Oversight Committee considers issues relating to funding and oversight of health and human services programs and agencies and makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, the committee considers bills relating to health and human services with limited fiscal impact.

Health Care & Wellness

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee considers a broad range of issues relating to the provision of physical and mental health care services, long-term care, and strategies to promote better health. Health care service issues include the licensing and regulation of health care facilities and the credentialing of health care providers. The committee also regulates pharmacies and pharmaceutical drugs, and has oversight and regulatory responsibility for state and local public health programs. The committee also considers issues relating to the accessibility and affordability of health care in both the private health insurance market and public health programs such as Medicaid and the basic health plan.

Higher Education

The House Higher Education Committee considers issues relating to the state’s public and independent baccalaureate colleges and universities, public community and technical colleges, and private career schools. Issues include governance and coordination of higher education, financial aid, tuition, distance learning, and the licensing of private colleges and career schools.

Judiciary

The House Judiciary Committee considers a wide variety of subjects relating to civil and criminal law, including issues involving commercial law, torts, probate, guardianships, civil commitment, drunk driving, courts and judicial administration, landlord/tenant law, and Consumer Protection Act remedies and processes; and family law issues such as marriage, marriage dissolution, child support and adoption.

Labor & Workforce Development

The House Labor and Workforce Development Committee considers issues relating to industrial insurance, unemployment compensation, collective bargaining, family leave, safety and health standards, and employment standards, such as wage laws and employment discrimination. The committee also considers issues relating to the building and construction trades, and workforce development issues, including apprenticeships, job skills and working retraining, and implementation of the Workforce Investment Act.

Local Government

The House Local Government Committee considers issues relating to the operations and financing of counties, cities, and some special districts. The committee also considers issues relating to the Growth Management Act and related land use issues, such as local permitting and the subdivision of property.

Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness

The House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee considers issues relating to law enforcement agencies, crime prevention, criminal penalties and sentencing, registration and civil commitment of sex offenders, adult correctional programs and institutions, mentally ill offenders, and state and local government preparedness to respond to public emergencies, including the interoperability of emergency communications systems.

Rules

The House Rules Committee considers all bills reported from policy and fiscal committees and determines whether, and in what order, to schedule their consideration on the floor of the House. The Rules Committee also reviews, adopts and schedules consideration of floor resolutions.

State Government & Tribal Affairs

The House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee considers issues relating to the processes of government, including state agency rule-making, state government reorganization, elections and campaign finance, public disclosure, ethics in government, procurement standards, and public employment. The committee also oversees various state agencies and officials, and considers the regulation and oversight of liquor, tobacco and gambling, and issues relating to veterans and the government-to-government relationship of the state and Indian tribes.

Technology, Energy & Communications

The House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee considers deployment, regulation, and access to technology and electronic communications; energy availability, production, and conservation; and related infrastructure issues.

Transportation

The House Transportation Committee considers the transportation budget, revenue sources for transportation funding, and issues relating to transportation policy and transportation agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol.

Ways & Means

The House Ways and Means Committee considers the operating budget bill, global fiscal issues such as pension policy and compensation, and bills with larger fiscal impacts. The committee also coordinates the work of the Education Appropriations & Oversight, General Government Appropriations & Oversight, and Health and Human Services Appropriations & Oversight Committees in developing the operating budget. The committee also considers issues relating to state and local revenues, such as increases or decreases in taxes, exemptions from taxes, and changes in the administration of taxes. (Note: Issues involving revenue for transportation purposes, such as gasoline taxes, are usually considered by the House Transportation Committee.)

The above information is courtesy of Seth Dawson.

For more information and to track legislative bills go to www.leg.wa.gov.

Madison and Hamilton Would Have Voted NO on I-1053

Two of the founders of our country, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, would have voted No on Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 if they were alive today.  They spelled out their reasoning in The Federalist Papers in which they discussed the wisdom and necessity of majority rules for voting, instead of requiring a supermajority vote. Their arguments, which helped to frame the majority voting provisions in the US Constitution, are still as relevant today as when they were first written.

Initiative 1053 is an attempt to rewrite the rules by which Washington State Legislators make their decisions and vote. Article II, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution says the Washington State Legislature shall make decisions by a majority vote. Eyman wants to change this to require that a 2/3 vote is needed by both Houses of the Legislature to pass revenue measures to fund state services or to repeal special interest tax exemptions that only benefit large corporations.

James Madison in The Federalist Papers No 58 had this to say about requiring supermajority votes:

It has been said that more than a majority ought to have been required for a quorum; and in particular cases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for a decision. That some advantages might have resulted from such a precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerations are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilege limited to particular cases, an interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences.

Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers No 22 likewise stated:

what at first sight may seem a remedy, is, in reality, a poison. To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser. …

This is one of those refinements which, in practice, has an effect the reverse of what is expected from it in theory. The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority. …

If a pertinacious minority can control 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 overrule that of the greater, … Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy.

These arguments for majority votes still ring true today. Washington State voters should vote NO on Initiative 1053 and uphold our State Constitution.

Supermajority Vote Requirement for Washington State Legislators as Proposed by I-1053 is Unconstitutional

This issue should have been decided long ago by the Washington State Supreme Court. Any attempt to limit the Washington State Legislature from enacting revenue bills or repealing non-performing tax exemptions by requiring a supermajority vote is unconstitutional. Initiative 1053 is unconstitutional and should be rejected by voters this November.

The Washington State Constitution is very clear on this issue.

Article II, Section 22 states:

“PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.

It does not state that more than a majority vote can be required. Initiative 1053 tries to change that by requiring Legislators to act by a 2/3 supermajority vote in both Houses to enact revenue measures or repeal tax exemptions. It happens to be revenue in this case but it could just as easy be environmental protections or labor issues or race issues or women’s issues or any other issue.

The fact of the matter is that anything more than 50% to pass a bill would give Legislators on one side of the issue more power than the other side in determining the outcome of a vote.  Requiring a 2/3 vote to pass a measure means that the vote of 1/3 of the Legislators can prevail over the vote of 2/3 of the Legislators.

A majority vote gives both sides on a issue equal voting power  to pass or reject legislation. Everyone’s vote has equal weight. It’s the basic concept of one person/one vote. But a 2/3 vote requirement for Legislators to pass something means that 1/3 of the Legislators can prevent passage;  in essence giving the vote of those opposed to a measure  twice the weight of someone voting for the measure.

This sets up a two tiered system of weighted votes, something that is not in the State Constitution for passing legislation.  It distorts the process of representational government. Initiative 1053 tries to change the Washington State Constitution by saying that in some cases your elected Senator or Representative will represent you with one full vote to decide an issue but in cases involving raising revenue or repealing non-performing tax exemptions, they will essentially only have the equivalent of half a vote to decide the issue if they vote yes. If they vote no their vote will represent a full vote.

This is the flaw in supermajority votes. Under a 2/3 majority vote requirement to pass some issues, it sets up a system that essentially assigns Legislators the equivalent of half a vote if they vote yes or a full vote if they vote no on certain issues.

While I-1053 would require supermajority votes for deciding to raise revenue or repeal non-performing tax exemptions, it only requires a simple majority to pass itself. It does not require a 2/3 vote.

Washington voters are certainly not overwhelmed by this proposal based on past voting. In the one instance in which it was mentioned specifically in the ballot title, it just barely passed. That was Initiative 960 in 2007. It only received a 51.24% yes vote. That is nowhere near the 2/3 voting requirement it is asking the State Legislature to operate under.

In 1993, the 2/3 vote requirement was an issue in Initiative 601, even though it was not specifically mentioned in the ballot title.  It also just barely passed with a 51.21 % yes vote.

Eyman mentions this measure passing 3 times which is misrepresenting the issue. In 1998 voters passed Referendum 49. It’s subject dealt with motor vehicle excise taxes, bonds for highways and spending limits. Nowhere was a 2/3 vote requirement mentioned in the ballot title or official arguments for the voters pamphlet by supporters and opponents as referenced by the League of Women Voters.

These attempts to negate the concept of 1 person/1 vote for Legislators voting are unconstitutional. They are attempts to assign different voting powers to different Legislators depending on whether they vote for or against a particular measure. The Washington State Constitution does not allow the ability to weight votes for bills depending on the subject.

Article I, Section 29 states:

CONSTITUTION MANDATORY. The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.

The State Constitution does not set up the power to weight votes depending on a Legislator’s position on a bill.

The issue of revenue/taxes is specifically addressed in another part of the Washington State Constitution.

Article VII, Section 1 states:

TAXATION. The power of taxation shall never be suspended, surrendered or contracted away.

Initiative 1053 is obviously an attempt to take away the Legislator’s authority to raise revenue or taxes to support public services. The only way this can be altered is by a constitutional amendment.

An initiative or legislative bill can not amend the state constitution. That requires a constitutional amendment. Because constitutional amendments affect the basic framework of how our government works, it is a specific instance where the state constitution spells out a requirement for a 2/3 vote by the Legislature and a majority vote of the people to pass. Two other instances spelled out for 2/3 votes by the Legislature are to expel a member of the house and a 2/3 vote in the first 2 years to amend an initiative.

No where does the Washington State Constitution say that voters can by a simple majority vote on an initiative, limit the power of Legislators to pass revenue legislation or repeal under-performing tax exemptions  by requiring supermajority votes. Under Article I, Section 29 to do so would require express words and no such words exist in the Constitution.

Initiative 1053 should be rejected by voters this November. It is unconstitutional. Uphold our Constitution by voting No on 1053 this November 2nd!

Loopholes in Washington State’s Retirement System Need to be Fixed

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a conservative or liberal; Washington State’s Retirement System needs radical changes to be credible. At a time when college tuition is being greatly increased, classes and programs are being cut, teaching professionals are being let go and money is not even available for many teaching fellowships for graduate students, some colleges and universities around Washington State have been rehiring back to their old jobs, people who have retired as state workers and allowing them to both be paid a salary and collect retirement funds.

As the Seattle Times reported on June 27, 2010, this process has resulted in a mockery of public funding of our higher education system. The example of just one Washington State University official shows why:

“Greg Royer ranks among the state’s top-paid employees, with a salary of $304,000. But that’s just part of his income. For nearly seven years, he’s also collected an annual pension of $105,000.
Royer, the vice president for business and finance at Washington State University, tops a long list of college administrative staff members who’ve been able to boost their incomes by up to 60 percent by exploiting a loophole in state retirement laws.
A Seattle Times investigation has found that at least 40 university or community-college employees retired and were rehired within weeks, often returning to the same job without the position ever being advertised. That has allowed them to double dip by collecting both a salary and a pension. …
A Times analysis of state payroll and retirement records shows that, as of the beginning of this year, about 2,000 people were collecting both wages and a pension from the state. In about two-thirds of those cases, however, retirees had returned to a state job on a part-time or on-call basis.
The Times found that 58 workers “including the 40 in higher education” had retired and been rehired full-time within three months. WSU and the University of Washington together accounted for 30 of those cases. A number of state agencies, most notably the Washington State Patrol, accounted for the cases outside of higher education.”

Washington State’s current state retirement system allows workers to retire with regular benefits at age 60 or after 35 years of service. It’s easy to understand taxpayer’s being angry when many are just looking for one salary to meet family needs. To allow state workers to game the system by double dipping, while cutting services and asking for more taxes is not acceptable.

Compare this with the headline in an article today in the Seattle Times that says for most workers, who are dependent on social security to make ends meet that “70 might become new retirement age”.  Current retirement age for folks like me born between 1943 and 1954 is age 66.  For those born after 1960, it is 67. And as I understand it, if I earn over a certain amount each year when I retire, my social security benefits are cut.

Washington State legislators need to act now to reform the state retirement system.  While I am a strong advocate for the state funding essential public services like higher education, I am offended that the state continues to allow its retirement system to be abused. Washington state legislators need to correct this problem now!

As Ryan Blethan of the Seattle Times noted in an editorial in today’s Seattle Times:

“More is expected of those who lead our public institutions, especially those who sit atop our colleges and universities. …”

Blethan goes on to note that action needs to be taken and that we’re not talking peanuts here.

“…there are about 2,000 double-dipping state employees, costing the state approximately $85 million annually. The Times investigation found some of these rehires happened within weeks and the positions were never advertised. A state employee can only be rehired after a month of retirement.
The problem seemed to slide by in healthy economic times even though it should not have. The Legislature needs to close the double-dipping loophole during the next session, even if that next session is a possible extra session.
Legislators do not have any other choice unless they are not serious about adjusting the state’s budget to economic reality. If addressed quickly and aggressively this is low-hanging legislative fruit”.