All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Olympia Plots to Overthrow the People's Initiative Process

Tim Eyman sent out this alert today about the legislature's plans to silence the initiative procress.
[The] New bill will completely shut down the initiative process (join us at 2 hearings in Oly next week Wed 8 am & Thurs 10 am)
"Initiative process, born 1914, died 2011, cause of death HB 1668/SB 5297." That's how the death certificate will read for our constitutionally guaranteed right to initiative if House Bill 1668 / Senate Bill 5297 is approved and signed into law by Gregoire. This monstrosity of anti-initiative policies passed the state senate last year (29 Democrats yes, 19 Republicans no). It failed to get out of committee in the house, but this year, they've added more anti-initiative legislators to that same committee to prevent that from happening again.
These bills are being fast-tracked through the process. And these bills are not requested by the Secretary of State. And amazingly, it's estimated to cost $360,000 to implement (I thought they had a budget problem?).
Before we list all the ways this legislation burdens the signature gathering process, let's first analyze if there's a problem. From 1999 to 2009, there were 36 ballot measures that submitted a total of 10,516,645 voter signatures to the Secretary of State. Zero instances of verified forgeries or fraud. Last year in 2010, there were 6 ballot measures that submitted 2.2 million signatures, no verified forgeries or fraud except one SEIU official, not a paid petitioner, collecting for the income tax initiative I-1098 who is now being prosecuted under current law for several petition sheets. 12 years, 12.7 million signatures, 1 problem with a SEIU volunteer.
The current system is working and current laws are clearly deterring bad behavior. The state Constitution clearly says that only laws that facilitate the process are allowed (making the process easier), laws that burden the process are unconstitutional. But that's not stopping these anti-initiative zealot politicians, backed by anti-initiative special interest groups, pushing their shut-it-all-down bill to regulate the initiative process to death. Here's just a few of its most egregious policies:
* HB 1668/SB 5297 is the "gotta-register-and-be-licensed-by-the-government-to-gather-voter-signatures" bill. We'd have to apply for a license, be subjected to criminal background checks ("paper-copy finger-print based background checks"), provide a "conventional photograph showing head, neck, and shoulders appropriate for copying and processing,” and if approved by the government, carry it with us when collecting signatures (only one license per initiative) and must produce it whenever asked ("Show us your papers" just doesn't sound right in America). There's also a laundry list of fines and other requirements that heavily burden the signature gathering process. In Oregon, these rules TRIPLED the cost to qualify for the ballot (before, the average was $150,000, after, the average was $470,000).
* Right now, both volunteers and paid petitioners print their name on the back -- in 2006, out of 17000 petition sheets, 3000 from our volunteers either forgot or chose not to put their printed name on the back. HB 1668/SB 5297 would require printed name, signature, address, city, state, zip code, and date. With that, fewer volunteers would collect signatures, fewer petition sheets would be sent in, among those sent in fewer would have the necessary information, and the campaign would be fined for any sheets without the information on the back, resulting in the campaign discarding perfectly valid voter signatures. All that extra burden for everyone in order to make it easier to find the people collecting bad signatures which isn't happening.
* The 9th Circuit struck down a 1993 Washington state law that required the names and addresses of people collecting voter signatures for ballot measures to be publicly reported (again, we're not talking about petition signers, just signature collectors). They ruled that citizens who ask voters to sign petitions have a right to anonymity ("There can be no doubt that the compelled disclosure of this information chills political speech.”). People who gather signatures are regularly harassed and forcing them to publicly identify themselves will make them even more susceptible to intimidation.
* A 10,000% increase in the initiative filing fee. This bill radically increases the cost to file an initiative and is clearly intended to deter citizens from petitioning their government for change. The huge number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot already provides a big enough hurdle. The people overwhelmingly support the initiative process and oppose legislative sabotage, like HB 1668/SB 5297, imposing additional burdens on the citizens.
The initiative process is already really tough and getting tougher every four years (the number of signatures keeps increasing). This bill will shut it down.
There you have it. Olympia is trying to make us their subjects. Tell your legislators what you think of HB 1668 and SB 5297.

Remind them they are your hired servants.

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