Senate adopts rules requiring a two-thirds vote for new revenue; NPI’s Permanent Defense responds

This afternoon, by a vote of twenty-six to twenty-three, the Washington State Senate adopted a set of procedural rules containing an unprecedented new provision specifying that bills that would create new sources of revenue to fund Washington’s common wealth must attain a two-thirds vote in order to advance.

The whole of the Senate Republican caucus voted for the rules, while the whole of the Democratic caucus voted against.

NPI is very disappointed in today’s undemocratic action by the Senate and particularly those senators who engineered it… Michael Baumgartner and Doug Ericksen.

“Less than two hours after taking their oaths of office, Senate Republicans stomped all over our state’s cherished tradition of majority rule by pushing through a change to Senate procedure that aims to give one-third of senators the ability to block bold new ideas that would strengthen our commonwealth,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder Andrew Villeneuve. “Ironically, they used a majority vote to to infringe on majority rule, because they cannot muster the two-thirds required to amend our state’s Constitution as Tim Eyman has demanded.”

“We are grateful to the twenty-three Democratic members of the Washington State Senate for rallying together to uphold our Constitution and defend the principle of majority rule with minority rights, which our state was founded on,” Villeneuve added. “We particularly wish to commend Senators David Frockt and Bob Hasegawa for their eloquent speeches on the Senate floor. They and their colleagues took a stand for democracy and republicanism, while the Republicans pushed through a rules change that dishonors the name of their party. They are behaving like enablers of plutocracy, and that’s what they deserve to be called.”

“The real purpose of today’s vote was to shield Senate Republicans’ powerful and wealthy friends – including companies like BP, ConocoPhillips, Tesoro, and Shell – from having to worry about paying their fair share in dues to our state anytime soon. It is well known among policymakers that our state’s tax obligations presently fall hardest on families with the least, and Republicans want to make sure it stays that way. Shame on them.”

“We look forward to the day when this rules change is overturned. We at the Northwest Progressive Institute will never stop fighting to protect our state’s cherished tradition of majority rule, which is also the law of our land, as set forth in our Constitution and affirmed by our Supreme Court.”

Posted in Legislation & Testimony, Threat Analysis | Tagged

State Senate should heed the words of our Founding Fathers and protect majority rule

In a press release issued yesterday, Republican State Senators Michael Baumgartner and Doug Ericksen announced that when the Legislature convenes for its long session next Monday, they will propose changing the rules of the Washington State Senate to require a two-thirds vote to advance bills that raise revenue, in a blatant attempt to contravene the State Supreme Court’s decision in League of Education Voters.

NPI adamantly opposes this attempt to undermine majority rule in the Senate, and reminds all forty-nine members of the Senate and ninety-eight members of the House that our nation’s Founding Fathers are on record as opposed to schemes that transfer power from the many to the few.

In The Federalist, authored between October of 1787 and August 1788, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay laid out what is still widely considered to be the best explanation and defense of the plan of government that became the Constitution of the United States of America.

Two of the essays in The Federalist discuss the question of balancing majority rule with minority rights, and each arrives at the very same conclusion: Requiring thresholds higher than a majority  to take action is unwise and dangerous. A majority is greater than fifty percent: no more, no less.

From The Federalist No. 22, authored by Alexander Hamilton:

[W]hat 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. Congress, from the nonattendance of a few States, have been frequently in the situation of a Polish diet, where a single VOTE has been sufficient to put a stop to all their movements.

And again from that same essay:

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, and give a tone to the national proceedings. Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good.

From The Federalist No. 58, authored by James Madison:

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.

“The Washington State Senate should heed the words of our Founding Fathers and reject Michael Baumgartner and Doug Ericksen’s undemocratic scheme to transfer power from the many to the few,” said NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve.

“Our state’s founders drew inspiration from Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and the other Founding Fathers to give us a plan of government that balances majority rule with minority rights. This proposed rule change would undermine and dishonor their good work, which they left to us and the generations that will follow after us.”

“Our state’s tradition of majority rule dates from statehood and it’s up to us to protect it. The Legislature was purposefully designed to be able to arrive at decisions on important questions like raising revenue democratically. We have already seen at the federal level how undemocratic procedural rules can be used to stop Congress from functioning as it was intended to. We don’t need that kind of manufactured gridlock here in the real Washington. The state Senate must say no to Baumgartner and Ericksen’s proposal.”

Posted in Legislation & Testimony, Threat Analysis |

Tim Eyman’s scheme to repeal local minimum wage laws fails to qualify as an initiative to the Legislature

2015 is less than forty-eight hours old here in the Pacific Northwest, but already, we have some good news to celebrate: Tim Eyman has failed to qualify his scheme to repeal local minimum wage laws in Seattle and SeaTac as an initiative to the Legislature for 2015. Today was the deadline to submit signatures for initiatives to the people for the forthcoming long session, and Eyman didn’t have any to turn in.

Eyman had hoped to launch a signature drive for I-659 on the first of September of last year, but his solicitations for money fell flat. Despite repeatedly asking around, Eyman received just three donations totalling $105,000 from Suzie Burke, Faye Garneau, and Don Root – not enough to mount a signature drive.

Although Eyman had been hoping that some of the firms and trade associations that donated to qualify I-1053 in 2010 and I-1185 in 2012 would stake him in support of his newest scheme, none responded to his overtures.

The result? No initiative.

As we have said before many times, the gears of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory cannot turn without money. Eyman does not have a grassroots base; he is a salesman who needs wealthy benefactors in order to stay in business. There are a few individuals still giving him money, but they’re not six figure check writers like Michael Dunmire was. Consequently, these days, Eyman is just churning out emails and aimlessly shopping for ballot titles – not launching signature drives or qualifying initiatives.

Posted in Threat Analysis |

If Tim Eyman’s so concerned about flat wages, why’s he trying to repeal $15/hour in Seattle & SeaTac?

As we have seen over the last fifteen years, Tim Eyman’s view is that there is never a good time for the people of Washington to pool their resources to get things done.

It doesn’t matter whether the economy is strong or weak; what’s crystal clear is that Eyman simply doesn’t believe in mutual responsibility or cooperation for the greater good, which are values that have defined Washington throughout its history.

When the economy has been weak, Eyman has cited it as a reason not to raise revenue, forgetting or conveniently ignoring that we rely on our public services as a people the most when times are hard — whether that’s during a recession or in the aftermath of a disaster like the Oso mudslide earlier this year.

(As writer Anne Herbert once quipped, reflecting on the value of one of the most important public services provided at the local level: “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”)

Curiously, however, in several recent emails to his followers and to reporters, Tim Eyman has cited stagnant wages to buttress his argument that state lawmakers should not take any action that raises revenue in the 2015 legislative session. From his email on Monday:

Besides, wages are flat.  Working families are struggling.  Even if Inslee and the Democrats wanted to ignore the people’s plight, there’s simply no way the people can afford higher taxes now.

And again today:

Our job is to constantly remind these non-Seattle legislators the voters’ clear message:  “Don’t raise taxes, prioritize spending, use existing revenues more cost effectively.  With wages flat, we’re tapped out.

It is ironic that Eyman keeps talking about wages being flat, because he’s spent much of the summer and autumn trying to drum up funding for an initiative that would prevent cities like Seattle and SeaTac from setting their own minimum wages at a level above what the state requires. Passage of the initiative Eyman has been hawking to the business community would result in more a thousand workers’ wages being cut in SeaTac or the Port of Seattle and cancel pay raises that are due to thousands more workers in Seattle.

In an August 15th memo to potential funders, Eyman called the $15/hour minimum wage enacted in SeaTac and Seattle a “problem”, writing:

Here’s our situation in Washington State:

PROBLEM:  The $15 minimum wage has been passed in SeaTac, Seattle, and Port of Seattle and continues to spread (Tacoma, Olympia, Bellingham, and other cities).  The good guys have been fighting back city-by-city.  They’ve failed every time.  A legislative bill in Olympia on state preemption was introduced last session and it went nowhere.

Eyman’s proposed “solution”? Use a statewide initiative to slash wages in the aforementioned jurisdictions back down to what the state requires. In the memo, Eyman proposed a budget of $1.1 million for the fall signature drive, which he wanted to begin on September 1st and finish by October 31st, and another $1.1 million to promote the initiative in 2015.

So far, Eyman has only been able to find three backers for his scheme: Suzie Burke, Faye Garneau, and Don Root. Burke and Garneau each gave $50,000 back in August; Root recently gave $1,000. Although $101,000 would certainly make for a nice payday to Eyman, it’s not enough to run a signature drive… and consequently, Eyman’s efforts to get an initiative going to overturn the minimum wage ordinances in Seattle and SeaTac remains stalled.

Since Eyman can’t seem to find ample seed money from a wealthy benefactor to launch a new initiative, he’s been asking supporters to help him “gear up” for the 2015 legislative session.

It sounds to us like he’s asking his supporters to pay him for doing lobbying work. Shouldn’t he register with the Public Disclosure Commission, then, like other paid lobbyists do? Or perhaps, as in the past, Eyman thinks the rules simply don’t apply to him.

Posted in Rethinking and Reframing, Statements & Advisories, Threat Analysis | Tagged

Scoring the media: Who covered the news of I-1325’s demise, and who didn’t?

Happy Fourth of July!

Yesterday, following Tim Eyman’s belated acknowledgement that the signature drive for I-1325 had failed and he would not be submitting any signatures to the Secretary of State for validation, several media outlets picked up on the story, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Herald of Everett, and the Spokesman-Review of Spokane. But many more media outlets did not, even though Eyman’s failure to qualify I-1325 for the ballot was a major development that deserved coverage.

A day has passed since the news broke, and we’ve decided to score the media coverage, so interested citizens can see for themselves which outlets dropped the ball and which ones carried the news. We’ll start by listing the outlets that ran with the story.

Media outlets that covered the failure of I-1325

Media outlets that didn’t cover I-1325, but did cover Eyman’s minimum wage publicity stunt in mid-June

  • The Puget Sound Business Journal published an article by Ashley Stewart which inaccurately said that Tim Eyman was “gathering signatures” for the initiative he filed (he is not, and at the time the article was written, Eyman’s initiative didn’t even have a ballot title). We emailed the PSBJ requesting a correction, but the article has not been updated. The PSBJ has yet to mention the failure of I-1325 to its readers.
  • The Stranger, piggybacking on an item published in PubliCola, mentioned Tim Eyman’s minimum wage publicity stunt in June (without disclosing that it was a stunt) but does not appear to have published much about I-1325. If I-1325 ever made it into The Stranger’s coverage, it apparently was only in passing.

Media outlets that didn’t bother to cover the failure of I-1325, but did cover the launch of I-1325 as well as Eyman’s minimum wage publicity stunt in mid-June

Media outlets that covered the launch of I-1325 but not its failure

And finally…

Media outlets that have paid little attention to Eyman in 2014 include The Associated Press, KOMO, KIRO TV, and KING. Extensive searches failed to turn up any mention of I-1325 or recent online coverage of Tim Eyman from these outlets. At least Seattle’s big three TV stations have been largely consistent in dealing with Eyman lately. Can’t say the same for the the outlets in the middle categories above.

Posted in Rethinking and Reframing | Tagged ,

Washingtonians to enjoy an Eyman-free November this year, evidence suggests

For the first time in eight years, voters in Washington won’t have to decide the fate of a Tim Eyman initiative in November. That’s the conclusion we reached this week after completing our latest threat analysis assessment.

In January of this year, Tim Eyman announced that his 2014 initiative would be I-1325, a Ted Cruz-inspired scheme to coerce the Legislature into passing a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature to raise revenue. I-1325 would wipe out $1 billion per year in funding for schools and and other vital public services in the event the Legislature did not pass such an amendment by mid-April of next year.

I-1325 is perhaps the most harmful, senseless, and mean-spirited initiative Tim Eyman has ever offered. Consequently, NPI’s Permanent Defense has been keeping a close eye on it, and laying the groundwork to fight it in the event it makes the ballot.

“For the past few weeks, we have been searching the state looking for evidence of an I-1325 signature drive,” said NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve. (NPI’s Permanent Defense, which Andrew founded in February of 2002, has now been tracking and organizing opposition to Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive initiatives for over twelve years).

“Our network of activists have reported seeing petitions for a number of other initiatives, including I-1351 (class size), I-1329 (money in politics) , and the now-canceled I-1356 (cancer research). But the signature drive for I-1325 appears to be nonexistent. We’ve done a lot of looking, and the lack of evidence of a signature drive leads us to conclude that Eyman is going to come up way short. We believe it’s likely there are a few I-1325 petitions circulating in private, out of public view, but those petitions won’t yield the hundreds of thousands of signatures that Eyman needs.”

“Historically, Tim has relied almost exclusively on paid petitioners to get on the ballot,” Villeneuve explained. “But he hasn’t been able to hire people to collect for him this year, because hasn’t found a wealthy benefactor to put up money for I-1325.”

“Without a wealthy benefactor, he’s sunk. At least for now, he can probably raise enough to live on from smaller donors, but not employ signature gathering crews. Deprived of six figure checks from the likes of Michael Dunmire, Kemper Freeman, BP, or ConocoPhillips, the gears of Eyman’s initiative factory simply can’t turn.”

As of June 10th, Eyman’s campaign committee had reported raising a total of $191,341.05. $166,323.30 of that amount has been spent, mostly on “officers compensation” and “printing and mailing services”.

But there are no reported payments to “Citizen Solutions”, the crooked signature gathering business operated by Eyman’s associates Eddie Agazarm and Roy Ruffino, or to any other signature gathering business.

That explains why petitions for I-1325 are so hard to find on the street. Nobody’s carrying them, except perhaps a few very motivated Eyman fans.

Eyman must know I-1325 is on the verge of failing, but he hasn’t been upfront with his supporters about the status of the signature drive. Eyman is perpetuating an illusion, mainly through occasional mailings and multi-weekly emails imploring his followers to invest time and money in a campaign that doesn’t really exist.

As recently as this morning, Eyman was once again asking for money, writing, “Everyone has from now until Thursday, July 3rd — 9 days — to donate dollars and collect signatures […] We need your help. Please contribute TODAY so this initiative effort is a success.”

246,372 valid signatures are currently required to place an initiative before the voters for their consideration. Signatures for an initiative to this November’s ballot are due no later than July 3rd, 2014 at 5 PM.

Because petitions inevitably have duplicate and invalid signatures, the Secretary of State’s office advises initiative sponsors to collect at least 325,000, so that the campaign has a cushion that can offset the signatures that won’t be counted.

Getting 325,000+ signatures is difficult and time-consuming, which is why campaigns usually make use of paid petitioners. Some campaigns use a mix of paid crews and volunteer gatherers, but campaigns that attempt to make the ballot with volunteers alone often fail, due to a lack of coordination, commitment, and preparation.

“We stand ready to mobilize against I-1325 in the unlikely event that it does make the ballot,” Villeneuve said. “We are very pleased that several other organizations have already taken a strong position opposing I-1325, including the Washington State Labor Council and the Washington State Democratic Party. But not having to fight this awful initiative in November would be a great blessing, because the last thing Washington needs is more Tim Eyman initiatives. Our common wealth and our cherished tradition of majority rule have been imperiled enough. We need to move beyond just having a conversation about tax reform and McCleary compliance; we need action and leadership from our elected representatives to uphold our Constitution and support our vital public services, especially our schools and universities.”

Posted in From the Campaign Trail, Statements & Advisories, Threat Analysis | Tagged

Washington State Democratic Party adopts resolution opposing I-1325

The Washington State Democratic Party today became the latest organization to take a position opposing Tim Eyman’s I-1325 by adopting a resolution at its 2014 State Convention in Spokane recommending that voters decline to sign I-1325 petitions from now through July 3rd (the deadline for submitting signatures) and further recommending an emphatic NO vote in the event it qualifies for the ballot.

Several weeks ago, the Washington State Labor Council also adopted a resolution opposing I-1325 at its annual COPE Convention.

Introduced in January by Tim Eyman, I-1325 is a Ted Cruz-inspired scheme that would wipe out $1 billion in funding for education and other vital public services every year unless the Legislature passes a constitutional amendment sabotaging Article II, Section 22 by requiring two-thirds votes for any bill that would increase revenue.

Such a restriction had previously been unconstitutionally imposed by a series of I-601 clones sponsored by Eyman, which were invalidated last year with the Supreme Court’s League of Education Voters decision.

The Washington State Democratic Party was an important part of the coalition that successfully defeated Tim Eyman’s I-517 last year, along with NPI’s Permanent Defense. I-517 went down to defeat in historic fashion, with over 62% of voters casting no votes. In King County, the vote against I-517 topped 73%.

Posted in Endorsements, From the Campaign Trail | Tagged

Washington State Labor Council takes position opposing I-1325 at 2014 COPE Convention

Good news to share: Today, at its annual Committee on Political Education (COPE) Convention, delegates from the Washington State Labor Council’s member unions took a position opposing Tim Eyman’s latest initiative, a Ted Cruz-style scheme intended to coerce lawmakers into approving a constitutional amendment to permanently require two-thirds votes to raise or recover revenue.

The WSLC is Washington State’s AFL-CIO affiliate. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is the nation’s largest labor federation, directly representing tens of millions of working men and women, and indirectly representing hundreds of millions more.

I-1325 contains a provision that automatically wipes out $1 billion in funding for education and vital public services like foster care if the Legislature does not pass the constitutional amendment Eyman wants by April 15th, 2015.

Constitutional amendments may only originate in the Legislature, which is why Eyman is resorting to extortion: he can’t get the undemocratic two-thirds vote scheme he has spent millions of dollars promoting reinstated any other way.

Eyman filed I-1325 back in January and launched a signature drive for the measure several weeks later. He has until July 3rd to submit at least 246,372 valid signatures of Washington voters. To offset duplicate and invalid signatures, he really needs around 310,000 signatures. So far, it doesn’t appear that Eyman has found a wealthy benefactor willing to put up the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to bring in paid signature gathering crews. Eyman has relied heavily on paid petitioners to collect signatures since he started up his initiative factory.

The Washington State Democratic Party is expected to join the WSLC and NPI in opposing I-1325 next month, when it holds its biannual convention. A resolution opposing I-1325 has been submitted to the convention for consideration, and is currently in the hands of the convention’s Platform & Resolutions Committee.

Posted in Endorsements, From the Campaign Trail | Tagged

Tim Eyman is falsely advertising Initiative 1325

Ever since the Washington State Supreme Court decided the League of Education Voters case in early 2013, Tim Eyman has been agitating to reinstate the unconstitutional two-thirds vote requirement for raising revenue contained within I-601 and its clones. After arguing for years that the two-thirds vote requirement was constitutional (it wasn’t; it violated Article II, Section 22) Eyman has now changed course, and is clamoring for a constitutional amendment.

In Washington, unlike other states, constitutional amendments must originate in the Legislature, and they must get a two-thirds vote to pass. Therein lies Eyman’s problem: Most state lawmakers are simply not interested in sabotaging our state’s cherished tradition of majority rule like he and his friends are. So Eyman is resorting to Ted Cruz-style coercion. His Initiative 1325 would wipe out about a billion dollars in funding for education each year by cutting the state sales tax, unless state lawmakers pass a constitutional amendment to reinstate the undemocratic two-thirds requirement from I-601 and its clones.

But, as usual, Eyman is being dishonest in his marketing. He doesn’t acknowledge that his initiative is really about slashing the sales tax unless the Legislature does what he wants, which would make it impossible for the state to fulfill its paramount duty of providing for the ample education of every child in Washington under Article IX.

In the sad and tragic event the Legislature did capitulate to Eyman, it would mean that decisions about raising revenue would be permanently placed in the hands of the few, not the many, thus dooming any possibility of real tax reform to help Washington’s families and strengthen our state’s common wealth.

Eyman has been referring to I-1325 both as a constitutional amendment and a constitutional amendment initiative. It is neither.

An initiative cannot alter the Washington State Constitution, and there is no such thing as a “constitutional amendment initiative”.

“Constitutional amendments and initiatives are very different,” said NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve. “Initiatives are citizen-led attempts to modify the Revised Code of Washington; constitutional amendments are proposed changes to our state’s plan of government. Constitutional amendments must originate in the Legislature and receive a two-thirds vote before being placed on the ballot for ratification by the people. The Legislature also has the power to call a constitutional convention, but again, this takes a two-thirds vote.”

In early drafts of what later became I-1325, Eyman actually included a clause that stipulated the initiative should be cited as a constitutional amendment:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 8. This act is known and may be cited as the “2/3 Constitutional Amendment.”

(Here’s an example from I-641, a previous incarnation of I-1325 filed in December 2013).

He later changed it to this:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 6. This act is known and may be cited as the “Taxpayer Protection Act.”

Although Eyman changed the title provision for I-1325, he is still falsely marketing I-1325 as a constitutional amendment. Petitions for I-1325 look like petitions for Eyman’s I-601 clones. At the top, they declare in big bold lettering “TOUGHER TO RAISE TAXES”. The subheading says “Let the voters decide on a 2/3rds constitutional amendment”. In an adjacent box, Eyman editorializes:

Voters OK’d this policy in 2012, politicians took it away, this initiative brings it right back again.

This is false, or highly misleading, on all counts:

  • Voters did not approve an initiative like I-1325 in 2012 – they approved I-1185, an unconstitutional I-601 clone that had different provisions in it;
  • The Supreme Court, consisting of nine nonpartisan justices, invalidated I-601 and its clones, not legislators, as the word “politicians” seems to imply;
  • I-1325 would not bring back the unconstitutional two-thirds requirement in I-1185. Instead, it would slash the sales tax unless the Legislature passes a constitutional amendment and puts it on the ballot before April 15th, 2015.

In an email today, titled, “Traveling the state promoting our 2/3 Constitutional Amendment Initiative”, Eyman writes:

It’s been a whirlwind effort. It’s been exciting, exhilarating, and yes, exhausting. But the enthusiasm and support from everyone for the 2/3 Constitutional Amendment Initiative has really been inspiring. Everyone loves the fact that it’s a constitutional amendment, meaning it will provide permanent protection. Pass it one time and it’ll be for all-time. I-1325 will keep Olympia on a short leash FOREVER!

This is false. Once again, I-1325 is not a constitutional amendment. It is an initiative that would slash the sales tax by half of one percent, resulting in the loss of about a billion dollars per year for our public schools, unless the Legislature decides to pass a constitutional amendment to Eyman’s liking. Eyman cannot force state lawmakers to do what he wants, but he is trying anyway with I-1325.

Eyman delights in wrecking government and putting people who have chosen to serve Washington as elected leaders in impossible positions.

I-1325 is likely itself unconstitutional, because, as mentioned, it would interfere with the state’s ability to carry out its paramount duty to provide for the ample provision of the education of Washington’s youth. The Washington State Supreme Court has already ruled in McCleary that the state is failing to abide by Article IX of the Constitution by underfunding our schools.

A better, more accurate title for I-1325 would be the “Denying Our Children the Education They Deserve” initiative.

No one who writes about or reports on I-1325 should use the deceptive description that Eyman is using, because it masks the truth about the initiative. Either of the outcomes Eyman is attempting to bring about with I-1325 would have disastrous implications. Simply put, I-1325 is a noxious, incredibly destructive initiative. It deserves to be defeated, and Tim Eyman’s false marketing of it deserves to be exposed.

Posted in Rethinking and Reframing, Statements & Advisories, Threat Analysis | Tagged

Setting the record straight on HB 2552

Throughout the past week and a half, Tim Eyman has been sending out near-daily emails trashing House Bill 2552, the initiative process transparency and accountability bill that passed out of the Washington State House of Representatives on February 17th with a large bipartisan majority.

Eyman has been asking his supporters to write to all of the Republicans who voted for the bill and demand that they recant and reverse their position. Unfortunately, as usual, he has not been upfront with his supporters, or with the media and elected officials he claims to have carbon copied on his messages.

His denunciations of HB 2552 have been packed to the brim with misinformation and recycled talking points he’s used in previous years against completely different bills, leaving us to wonder whether he has actually read the text of HB 2552. We’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight and explain why HB 2552 is a good bill that actually strengthens the integrity of the initiative, referendum, and recall process.

As its bill report makes clear, House Bill 2552 is backed by a broad coalition of organizations, including the Washington Food Industry Association and NPI, which helped organize the successful coalition that overwhelmingly defeated Tim Eyman’s I-517 last year. HB 2552 is also supported by Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Washington’s top elections official and the only Republican elected to statewide office.

The purpose of HB 2552 is to make the initiative process more transparent and the companies that have turned it into an underground industry more accountable.

The bill was inspired by similar legislation passed in Oregon that the Oregon Secretary of State’s office says has helped to increase public confidence in the initiative process and deter signature fraud, but it is not identical.

Eyman has made a number of claims over the past few days about HB 2552 that are simply not true. We’re going to run through a bunch of these and debunk them, because it’s important that everyone who is interested in this legislation understands what it really does and why it was introduced.

Myth: HB 2552 is “The Democrats’ most vile, onerous, unconstitutional anti-initiative bill in state history” (Eyman)

Reality: Tim Eyman has attacked pretty much every initiative reform bill introduced with the aim of bolstering transparency and accountability with colorful adjectives like vile and onerous. HB 2552 is actually a bipartisan bill modeled on legislation implemented in Oregon that has so far withstood legal scrutiny. It is prime sponsored by Democratic State Representative Chris Reykdal and cosponsored by two Republicans… Vincent Buys and Brandon Vick. It is supported by Republican Kim Wyman, the only Republican elected to statewide office by the voters in HB 2552. It passed the House with a vote of seventy-one to twenty-six on February 17th, 2014.

Myth: HB 2552 “will destroy volunteer signature gathering” (Eyman)

Reality: Wrong. HB 2552 won’t restrict or interfere with volunteer signature gathering, let alone destroy it. It requires individuals who are being paid to approach voters for their signature to register with the Secretary of State, much like paid lobbyists are required to register with the Public Disclosure Commission. Volunteers do not need to register. Eyman claims:

Under HB 2552, even fewer volunteers will collect signatures because each sheet must be individually filled out on the back and a huge amount of personal information must be handwritten on each sheet.  What’ll happen then?  Initiative campaigns will become even more reliant on paid petitioning.

This is nonsense. The “huge amount of personal information” from petitioners that’s required is just a name, street address, city, state, zip, signature, and the date of the signature. Existing state law requires about the same amount of information of any voter signing the petition… name, signature, address, city, and county of residence. Signing the signature declaration on the back of a petition is no more complicated or time-consuming than signing a petition itself.

And under the bill, the initiative’s sponsor is fined $500 for each sheet not filled out.  What will initiative sponsors do?  To avoid the fine, they will throw away and never submit all the petition sheets that are not filled out, meaning thousands of valid voter signatures will never be turned in and counted.  This will destroy volunteer signature collection, resulting in increased reliance on paid petitioners (the opposite of what we all want)

This is false. HB 2552 does not impose any fines on initiative sponsors for submitting petitions without a signed declaration. The bill does impose fines on initiative sponsors and signature gathering firms if they employ petitioners who do not register, and if petitioners circulate petitions for free in addition to being paid. We checked with the staff of the Government Operations & Elections Committee, and they confirmed Eyman is incorrect. Here’s the relevant language in the bill:

NEW SECTION. Sec 8. A fine of five hundred dollars shall be issued to the prime sponsor or sponsors of the initiative, referendum, or recall petition or the signature gathering business for each of its paid signature gatherers who are not registered under this section, and for each signature gatherer who violates subsection (6) of this section.

Subsection 6 says:

An individual registered under this section may not obtain  signatures on a petition or prospective petition for which the individual is being paid and, at the same time, obtain signatures on a petition or prospective petition for which the individual is not being paid.

Just to reiterate: If a signature gatherer – whether volunteer or paid – forgets to fill out and sign the declaration before turning in his or her sheet, there’s no penalty. The signatures are not disqualified, and there is no fine.

Tim Eyman is wrong when he says otherwise.

Myth: “HB 2552 makes it simple for opponents of initiatives to shut down any signature drive.  They’ll know exactly who to target and harass.” (Eyman)

Reality: Nonsense. The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances is a constitutionally guaranteed right, as is the right to speak out on any issue and freely express oneself. HB 2552 will not prevent signature drives from taking place, or help opponents of any particular initiative to “shut down” a signature drive. Proponents and opponents of initiatives will remain free to organize for and against initiatives under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Last year, during the debate over Tim Eyman’s I-517 (which the people of Washington resoundingly rejected), former Secretary of State Sam Reed noted that during his tenure, most of the complaints received by his office regarding signature gathering pertained to aggressive petitioners, who voters reported were being too pushy and intimidating.

HB 2552 seeks to address these complaints by requiring that paid signature gatherers undergo training before they hit the streets with their petition sheets.

Contrary to what Tim Eyman has said, HB 2552 was not written to make it easier for opponents of initiatives to track down petitioners and make trouble for them. The bill was actually amended in committee to exempt the identification that petitioners must submit from being made available to the public, at the urging of HB 2552’s proponents. Section 1(9):

NEW SECTION. Sec 9. The applicant’s driver license, state identification card, or other photo identification required under subsection (1)(d) of this section is exempt from public inspection or copying.

Myth: “HB 2552 will radically decrease the number of citizens willing to participate in the initiative process by imposing massive burdens. And to accomplish what? Burdening everyone to find the handful who are already being caught under the current system!”

Reality: HB 2552 is a bill designed to strengthen the integrity of the initiative process. It requires individuals who are being paid to lobby voters in their capacity as citizen lawmakers to register with the Secretary of State, just as lobbyists who are being paid to lobby our elected representatives must register with the Public Disclosure Commission. There is nothing sinister or vile about HB 2552. Paid petitioners are required to register in Oregon, and it hasn’t stopped or diminished participation in the initiative process there.

Eyman fails to admit that many of the people who set up shop outside of entrances and exits to supermarkets, stadiums, and fairs are not necessarily citizens or even residents of Washington. Signature gathering firms often bring in workers from out-of-state who are unfamiliar with Washington’s politics or people to collect signatures. HB 2552 requires these firms and the petitioners who work for them to register and undergo training and background checks. Volunteer signature gatherers who simply wish to exercise their First Amendment rights are completely exempt from the registration requirements.

In his tirades against HB 2552, Eyman has repeatedly tried to minimize the problem of signature fraud, even referring to fraudulent signatures as “bad sigs”.

This is misleading; when the Secretary of State processes petitions from a signature drive, they always find “bad” signatures. Some signatures are duplicates; others are invalid because the individual who signed is not a registered voter, or the signature doesn’t match what the Secretary of State has on file. A signature can be bad and not be fraudulent.

The Secretary of State does not check every signature on every petition at the end of a signature drive. To save time and money, the SoS conducts what are known as random sample checks, where a small but statistically valid sample of signatures are subjected to examination and verification. During the random sample checks for I-517 and I-522 last year, a large number of fraudulent signatures were discovered, and the Secretary of State forwarded the case on to the State Patrol for investigation.

Last year was the fourth straight year that fraudulent signatures were discovered in random sample checks. As The Herald of Everett later reported in a follow-up story, signature fraud has been a recurring problem:

Eight of 19 initiatives or referenda submitted for verification between July 2008 and January 2013 contained irregularities that were turned over to the State Patrol.

Over that span, 19 people have been investigated for petition forgery or fraud. Among those, two were convicted of felonies.

These are just the cases we know about. Since not all petitions are being checked, it is quite possible that there are instances of signature fraud going uncaught and unnoticed.

Finally, it’s important to be aware that a lot of thought went into HB 2552, and it contains different language than bills introduced in previous sessions.

Anyone reporting or commenting on HB 2552 should read the bill themselves and do their own analysis. Unfortunately, the News Tribune of Tacoma and the Spokesman-Review of Spokane failed to do that last Friday when they published editorials against HB 2552.

Both newspapers, which evidently relied on talking points supplied by Eyman, erroneously complained about valid signatures being discarded due to petitioner misconduct.

The News Tribune wrote:

After voters have signed petitions, the gatherers would have to sign them and fill out the back – by hand, on each copy. Without this laborious process, the sheets would be invalidated. In other words, citizens who thought they’d signed a petition would have their signatures thrown out without their knowledge.

Incorrect. HB 2552 does make the declaration on the back mandatory, but valid voter signatures are not thrown out if it isn’t signed by the petitioner.

The Spokesman-Review, meanwhile, wrote:

And why should valid signatures be discarded because the gatherer did not fill out and sign an identification form on the back of the petitions?

Again, they wouldn’t be.

Just so this is absolutely clear, we’ll say it one more time: HB 2552 does not disqualify the signatures of voters who have signed a petition if the gatherer forgets to fill out the declaration.  Read the bill, and do your own analysis!

The text is available right here (PDF).

Posted in Legislation & Testimony, Rethinking and Reframing |
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