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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Regulating Citizen Initiatives - The Great Tragedy

by Tim Eyman

House Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 5297 are a monstrosity of anti-initiative policies. Instead of separate anti-initiative bills where each anti-initiative policy can be critiqued and highlighted, this year the Democrats went with the omnibus approach, putting all their anti-initiative eggs into one basket.

There is no justification for any change to the initiative process because there is no problem. Over 12 years, 12.7 million signatures have been submitted to the Secretary of State, and there's been 1 problem with 1 SEIU volunteer last year. The SEUI volunteer "collected" 250 forged signatures and subsequently has been charged.

The large number of signatures is a substantial enough hurdle that only a handful of initiatives qualify each year and voters approve some and reject others (and more times than not, the side which spends the least amount of money wins at the ballot box -- voters don't care which side has more money, they care about which side has the better argument).

But the greatest tragedy would be the bills' increase in initiative filing fees. Here's why: opponents of the initiative process say this will stop "frivolous" initiatives from being filed. There's no such thing. Some Washington citizen felt strongly enough about an idea or policy to fill out an affidavit making public their home mailing address, phone number, and email address, draft the initiative language, and submit it to the Secretary of State. They agreed to put themselves and their idea in the public realm for public consumption and public debate. And yes, he or she included $5. That is a good faith effort by a regular citizen to participate in our state's initiative process which is guaranteed by our state Constitution. Usually about 10 to 20 regular citizens do this each year. It takes a great deal of courage for a regular citizen to go through all that.

By way of comparison, legislators introduce 3000 bills in Olympia each legislative session. None of them fill out an affidavit disclosing their home address or pay $5, they just introduce or co-sponsor as many bills as they want. Some are serious, some are not (allowing dogs in bars, naming the state drink, banning body piercing). These thousands of bills are sent to the Code Revisor's office which, with a yearly $4.6 million budget, helps legislators draft them.

No one works on commission, they are paid the same whether it's 3000 bills or 3200. These same people at the Code Revisor's office help the handful of regular people who file initiatives each year. It doesn't cost the taxpayer anything extra for there to be 50 initiatives filed, or 25, or 10, or 5.

These bills propose to increase the filing fee 10,000% to $500. The bills' increase in the filing fee GUARANTEES that regular citizens will no longer have access to their own initiative process. The 'big guys' (us, SEIU, WEA, Bill Gates Sr, BIAW, Costco, etc) will continue to file initiatives but no one else will. The bills' proposed $400 refund if the initiative qualifies for the ballot will only reward the big guys; it'll clearly kill off participation by regular citizens.

Again, we're only talking about a handful of initiatives each year and again, there are no additional costs to taxpayers for initiatives filed (Code Revisor, Secretary of State, AG, they are all salaried, none are paid on commission, so there's no marginal cost for the 10-20 initiatives filed each year by regular citizens).

The initiative process has worked for over 100 years. Please just leave the initiative process alone.

Related Link

Please see Eliminating Democracy for the Unions.

Sometimes you see a bill in legislature where the supporting arguments are weak. Its not often you see a bill where the arguments have no connection with the legislation, as is the case with SB 5297. No one seems able to point out a problem that the bill would actually fix. The bill only makes it more difficult for the people to control their government.

Voice your opinion

Please email your State Legislators, and let 'em know they ought to vote No on House Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 5297. Look up your legislator


Senate Bill 5298 has passed out of committee on a party line vote. It is headed to the floor of the State Senate.

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