Eyman initiative demands constitutional amendment vote on tax hikes

By | January 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Initiative activist Tim Eyman proposed a new voter initiative Monday that would cut $1 billion a year from the state budget unless the Legislature sends voters a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled last year that the two-thirds “supermajority” requirement violates the state constitution because a bill requires a simple majority vote of the Legislature to pass. The high court said a constitutional amendment would be necessary to implement the two-thirds requirement.

If voters approve Eyman’s initiative, the proposal would cut the state’s sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, or about $1 billion dollars a year, unless the Legislature puts a two-thirds constitutional amendment on the ballot by April 2015. If the constitutional amendment reaches voters by April 2015, the sales tax reduction never will go into effect.

“Our initiative gives the Legislature an impossible-to-ignore financial incentive to let us vote. It’s elegant, legal, and easy to explain,” Eyman said in a press release.

Eyman’s initiative was among six filed at the Secretary of State’s office Monday. Other initiatives filed Monday include:

  • Two other Eyman-sponsored  initiatives, including one that would restore $30 car tabs and eliminate cameras used for issuing tickets for speeding and red-light violations, and another that would outlaw such cameras unless approved by voters;
  • Two medical cannabis initiatives that would create legal protections for patients with prescriptions for medical marijuana;
  • An initiative that would show state support for a U.S. Constitutional amendment to prevent corporations from being considered citizens.

The full text of the initiatives filed Monday are available on the Secretary of State’s website.

Initiative sponsors have until July 3 to submit 246,372 valid signatures from registered Washington voters before they would appear statewide in the November general election.

This week’s Q&A: Sen. Dan Swecker on an effort to require initiatives to be tied to a funding source

By | December 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week, I spoke with Sen. Dan Swecker about a Constitutional amendment he’s sponsoring for the regular session that would put an end to unfunded initiatives. What do Republicans and Democrats think? And how would this affect professional initiative writer, Tim Eyman? Here’s what Swecker had to say.

Q: First, tell me a little about your idea and how this came about.

Swecker: Actually, it’s kind of come from frustrations we’ve felt over the last four or five years as we’ve had to cut the budget. The biggest examples are initiatives 728 and 732 that provided for smaller class sizes and cost of living increases for teachers. The cost of those is just monumental – probably hundreds of millions of dollars every year and in an environment where you’re already having to cut programs in order to balance the budget. The idea of pouring more money into one part of one program just doesn’t seem appropriate. I also just don’t think that people have any understanding of whether or not an initiative is going to cost something or whether or not taxes would have to be raised. 

This bill would do two things. First, the state would do a fiscal impact analysis then the bill has the maker of the initiative indicate what the revenue source would be that would pay for the program. There was a recent issue of Initiative 1163 to provide training for home care workers and the ranges of cost were from $40 million to $80 million. We’re in a position where we’re already cutting programs for the most vulnerable and disabled parts of our population, things like Basic Healthcare. So it seems crazy to take more money out of htose programs to pay for training. So I just decided that it’s important that people take on the same responsibility that I have as a legislator.

Q: So, because not everyone might be totally familiar with how initiatives work: Once voters pass an initiative under current law — even if it requires a lot of funding — the Legislature basically can’t change it for two years.

Swecker: Right, it takes a two-thirds majority to touch it for the first two years.

I mean, everybody loves education and loves teachers and wants smaller class sizes, so it sounds like a really good vote. But when you take a look at the fiscal implications, it could be really horrendous. (more…)

This week’s Q&A: What the new liquor privatization initiative means for the Liquor Control Board

By | November 10, 2011 | 0 Comments
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, voters passed Initiative 1183, which would privatize the state’s liquor system. For this week’s Q&A, I spoke with Brian Smith, Communications Director for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, about what this change means for the WSLCB.

Q: Private stores will be able to sell liquor in June of next year – what’s happening before then in order for that transition to occur?

Smith: Immediately, there’s a number of things. We will need to do some emergency rule making to make sure that our existing rules and laws coincide with the initiative, because it goes into effect Dec. 8.

We need to do something about the trade area, which you may recall was an issue during the campaign.  We need to develop licenses for people to apply for: The spirits retail license, the distributor license do not exist. Then you have to have about 60 days to process them. So, for example, if you’re a grocer, you need to apply for a license, then through that process we work with local governments – all that takes generally about 60 days.

Q: You mentioned “trade area.” Is that a definition that will be established before any licenses are issued, or will that be a case-by-case basis?

Smith: We don’t know yet. We are contingency planning, but that is certainly something that’s going to have to happen very soon.

Q: If you read the initiative, it’s talking about distributors and retailers. Can you describe how that system might look?

Smith: Right now, there are beer and wine distributors in Washington. They do the jobs of not only collecting the product from manufacturers, then move it out to retailers. Usually, they provide a service: They go in and stock the beer shelf, etc. I would imagine it’s going to be something like that under this scenario. They’ll bring in the liquor; handle marketing it on shelf space. The retailer is going to be just that – anyone that meets the criteria of the initiative, which is 10,000 square feet or larger, hasn’t had a public safety violation in two years. Contract stores are grandfathered in but they’ll have some changes: Right now, a contract store is a small business. We own the inventory and we pay them a commission on their sales. Under 1183, they will have to purchase their own inventory, and that runs, on average, $125,000, which is pretty steep for a small business.

Q: I also noticed in the initiative that, while state liquor stores will close next summer, there will be a one-year period for the state to get rid of all the assets. Does that mean the liquor stock? The buildings?

Smith: Assets like land and buildings. We’ll have the distribution center and we’re supposed to auction off the existing state store license locations. (more…)

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Election results so far….

By | November 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

So far, every initiative is passing — except Tim Eyman’s initiative 1125, which is behind by about 2 points right now.

There will be more batches of returns in the coming days and more updates, but for tonight it looks like the state will have privatized liquor stores, more training for home healthcare workers, a budget stabilization account and no residency requirement to vote for president.

Undecided on election issues? Here are some great resources.

By | October 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

If you’re not quite sure how you plan to vote on the three initiatives and two referenda on the ballot this year, there are some informative resources available for you to peruse.

First up, TVW’s Video Voters’ Guide. Listen to Tim Eyman tell you why he thinks you should vote for his tolling initiative — and then hear Doug MacDonald on why that’s inadvisable. All the initiatives and referenda are represented. For even more from supporters and opponents, read this summer’s series of Q&As on the initiatives right here.

Next, head to the Living Voters’ Guide. This online resource was put together by CityClub and the UW. On the interactive site, you can create a list of pros and cons for each issue — by choosing from an existing list or submitting your own — and decide where you stand. You can even save your opinions for future reference.

And, of course, don’t miss out on the Secretary of State’s Voters’ Guide, which is online and probably arriving at your doorstep soon.

Sen. Mike Carrell on voting, the state Constitution and next week’s big Revenue Forecast

By | September 9, 2011 | 0 Comments

carrell2This week’s Q&A is with Sen. Mike Carrell, who I spoke with mostly about SJR 8205, which will remove a provision in the state’s Constitution that has never been enforced — and has been ruled unconstitutional. We also talked about next week’s big Economic and Revenue Forecast, where the state’s top economist is expected to have more bad news for lawmakers. Read all the way through the interview to see what Sen. Carrell has to say about it.

Q: First, what would the SJR do, in your own words?
Carrell: What it will do is eliminate from the state constitution a redundant part which is Article 6, Section 1(A). Article 6, Section 1 says what the qualifications are for a person to vote: You must live in the state, be 18 years of age, you can’t be a criminal — things of that nature. But Article 6, Section 1(A) says if you’ve been a resident of some state outside of Washington and you haven’t been here at least 60 days, then you can only vote for the president and vice president. The U.S. Supreme Court declared that it was unconstitutional to not allow somebody to vote that was of the age and had the other qualifications. But this has remained in our state constitution. I’ve tried for a number of years to convince people of both parties to clean up the constitution by removing this clause, and I finally did convince virtually everyone, so it’s going to a vote of the people.
It’s more a matter of doing some house cleaning to clean up something that was never implemented. It was passed by the people in 1977 and since that time, it has never been in actual effect. We have ignored it, so it is time to get rid of it.
(more…)

It’s time to start researching those initiatives

By | August 23, 2010 | 0 Comments

With about 100 days until the Nov. 2 general election, the time is right to start studying the nine initiatives, referenda and resolutions that will appear on your ballot.

TVW will be playing Video Voter Guide statements for each of the ballot measures. And I’ll post exclusive Off the Set interviews with supporters and opponents.

In the meantime, check out the Secretary of State’s handy web site, which gives you the full text, financial impacts, explanatory statements and pro/con statements. All on one page! Find it all here.

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Should initiative sponsors abide by an ethical code? Should initiative signature gatherers be away from businesses?

By | January 28, 2010 | 1 Comments

Right now, the House State Government Committee is considering bills that would affect the initiative process in Washington.

One, sponsored by Rep. Jim Moeller, would require that initiative signature gatherers to stay 25 feet away from the doors of businesses. Here’s the bill report.

Another, sponsored by Rep. Geoff Simpson, is here. It would create an ethics code for initiative prime sponsors. “Under (Initiative 1033), the more real estate a person owned, the more they stood to gain.” He said one of the largest real estate owners in the state contributed $25,000 to the campaign — “And we don’t know how much he paid Tim Eyman personally.” Simpson said if lawmakers accepted cash from people they were writing legislation for, he’d call the police to begin an investigation. He said the same standards should apply to initiatives.

Now Eyman is testifying on the bill to require 25 feet distance between a signature gatherer and a business entrance. He said it’s the “stupidest thing” he’s ever seen because “the rulings say that if these stores allow any First Amendment activity” — like bell ringers — “they must allow them all.” Eyman said the bill is a copy of a bill to require smokers to keep their distance from building entrances.

Chris Bass, a concerned citizen, said he thinks the bill is chilling because if you follow the logic — that initiative sponsors should live by the same ethics as legislators — then it means eventually they may have to “open their financial kimono” to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.
Update: Tim Eyman and the ACLU are in agreement. Shankar Narayan, the ACLU’s lobbyist, said the 25-foot rule is unconstitutional. Narayan said the apparent annoyance of signature gatherers doesn’t warrant stifling free speech.

Now, on to Simpson’s bill: “Every bill that you’ve introduced is trying to make the process tougher,” Eyman said. “This bill proposes that initiative sponsors solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution,” Eyman said, which “is so laughably unconstitutional that (the bills) don’t even pass the straight face test.”

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Eyman’s latest initiative will be on the ballot, Referendum 71 supporters are “scrambling”

By | July 15, 2009 | 0 Comments

Secretary of State Sam Reed has announced that Tim Eyman’s latest initiative, I-1033, has officially made the ballot.

The Secretary of State’s release indicated that Eyman’s initiative would be the only citizen initiative on the ballot. Referendum 71 supporters have until July 25, but told the office they were “scrambling,” according to the release.

“Over the weekend, sponsors said they have at least 75,000 signatures on hand. It takes 120,577 valid signatures to qualify a referendum for the ballot, but the state Elections Division suggests sponsors try to turn in about 150,000, to cover invalid or duplicate signatures, which can run 20 percent or more,” according to the release.

Stay tuned on R71.

In the meantime, Initiative 1033 limits growth in state, county and city government revenues, and directs that any revenue collected over that amount be reflected in lower property taxes. Limits on revenue would be adjusted annually for inflation and population growth.

Find the entire text — along with all the other initiatives filed this year — here.

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Oops – initiative signatures are due on July 2 — not the 3rd

By | June 16, 2009 | 0 Comments

The deadline for submitting initiatives was thought to be July 3 — by everyone, including the Secretary of State’s office. But today, we learn July 3 — a Friday, the day before Independence Day — is a state holiday. So: Initiatives are now due the day before, on Thurs., July 2.

What’s that mean: Signature gatherers have one fewer day to get enough signatures for their causes.

As Tim Eyman wrote this afternoon in an e-mail to supporters and members of the media, “On every petition and in every email and letter and newspaper story, the signature gathering deadline was identified as Friday, July 3rd … However, the Secretary of State just sent out a letter that says that July 3rd is actually a government holiday and their offices will be closed on that Friday… We’ve got just 17 days left.”

Eyman’s initiative, I-1033, would seek to limit property taxes.

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Elections Division is concerned about R71 opponents pledge to publish names

By | June 2, 2009 | 0 Comments

Yesterday, a group called Who Signed announced that they would publish the names of Washington voters who sign Referendum 71 — the initiative to repeal the domestic partnership expansion.

The names of voters who sign petitions are, of course, public record. But the state’s Elections Director, Nick Handy, said this is an instance where making the information public may be seen as a threat by some. At the Secretary of State’s blog, Handy said: “A vigorous debate on the issues is always welcome, but efforts to intimidate or repress participation are not. It just doesn’t feel like the culture we have here in the state of Washington. An unhealthy chilling effect occurs when public debate reaches a point where the passion of some individuals drives some folks to take actions that are viewed by others as threatening or intimidating. We call for open and healthy public debate without resort to these methods.

For their part, the people behind Who Signed say they’re publishing the names to allow people to have conversations with their neighbors — and that similar things have been done in other states without violence or intimidation resulting.