Category Archives: Legislation & Testimony

NPI thanks Senate Democrats for voting to protect Washington’s cherished tradition of majority rule

Legislation & Testimony

This morning, the Washington State Senate voted twenty-six to twenty-three to reject a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 8211) to undemocratically require a two-thirds vote for passage of any bill that would raise revenue.

The amendment, which itself fittingly required a two-thirds vote to pass in the Senate, was defeated, with all twenty-three Democratic senators voting no and all twenty-six Republican senators (Tim Sheldon included) voting yes.

Following the vote, Northwest Progressive Institute/Permanent Defense founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve thanked Senate Democrats for sticking together to defend Article II, Section 22 of Washington’s Constitution, which the Tim Eyman-backed amendment would have sabotaged.

“Our tradition of majority rule dates back to the founding of our state,” said Villeneuve. “The seventy-five delegates who participated in the 1889 constitutional convention debated voting limits more than just about any other topic, as David Perez of Perkins Coie discovered while researching the convention four years ago during the League of Education Voters case. The delegates decided that the only standard that made sense for passing bills was a majority vote. Not a three-fifths vote, not a two-thirds vote, not a three-fourths vote… a majority vote.”

“Our Founders understood that our state needed a plan of government that balanced majority rule with minority rights. Where they felt it appropriate to protect minority rights, they explicitly required minority consent to take action. That is why there are numerous places in the Constitution that require a two-thirds vote or a three-fifths vote to take an extraordinary action, like amending the Constitution or overriding a veto. But for passage of bills, our Founders made it clear in Article II, Section 22 that an absolute majority was the threshold for passage of bills. They wanted laws to be made by the many, not a few.”

“Today, our Democratic Senators voted to defend our cherished tradition of majority rule. They stood together, unified, for the values Washington was founded upon, in defiance of Tim Eyman and his wealthy benefactors. They did so knowing several of them will likely be attacked in campaign advertising this coming election season. They showed real courage today, and we cannot thank them enough.”

“Tim Eyman knows that when Democrats stand together in opposition to his destructive agenda — and when progressives unify a majority of our state’s people around our finest traditional values — he can’t win. Eyman is well aware that he cannot get the amendment he so desperately wants without Democratic votes. That’s why he resorted to blackmail with Initiative 1366. Thankfully, Eyman’s attempt to coerce Democrats into doing his bidding has been a complete failure.”

“It’s a shame that not a single Republican was willing today to stand up to Tim Eyman today. We would have liked to see some of the Republicans listen to the elder statesmen of their party and vote against SJR 8211. Distinguished Republicans like Sam Reed, Ralph Munro, and Dan Evans, who have been elected statewide to govern in years past, understand that majority rule is good for Republicans and Democrats alike. That’s why they opposed Tim Eyman’s I-1366 last autumn.”

“It’s really too bad that Tim Eyman, who is under investigation for serious violations of our state’s public disclosure laws, continues to enjoy such influence with legislative Republicans. But at least he has none with Democrats. History shall reflect that when our cherished tradition of majority rule came under attack, twenty-three brave Democrats stood up and defended it. They deserve the admiration and thanks of all Washingtonians who want to see our Constitution upheld.”

Required reading during today’s episode of The Pam Roach Show

Legislation & Testimony

This morning, Republican State Senator and Tim Eyman ally Pam Roach is holding a hearing on a proposed amendment to the Washington State Constitution that would sabotage our cherished tradition of majority rule, which dates back to statehood (SJR 8211). It’s one of several similar amendments introduced by Republican senators so far this year.

Article II, Section 22 of the Constitution provides: “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.”

The Supreme Court ruled in League of Education Voters (2013) that majority means “greater than fifty percent”, striking down a series of initiatives that had unconstitutionally set up a higher threshold for passage of revenue bills.

Eyman, Roach and other militant Republicans like Don Benton want to require a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature to pass any bill that raises or recovers revenue for the state treasury. This would allow a submajority of lawmakers — as few as seventeen senators out of one hundred and forty-seven total lawmakers (12%) — to dictate what happens to any future tax reform proposal.

Absurdly, although it would take a two-thirds vote to repeal tax breaks under the rules Eyman wants, new tax breaks could still be created by majority vote.

The principal consequence of SJR 8211, if passed, would be to lock in our state’s broken, worst-in-the-nation tax system permanently.

Other states have changed their constitutions to put control over the outcome of revenue decisions into the hands of a few instead of the many, and the results haven’t been good.

If you’re tuning in to see The Pam Roach Show on TVW this morning, here are some materials we recommend reading to appreciate the damage and gridlock that supermajority requirements have caused in other states in the Union, notably California, which has previously required a two-thirds vote to pass budgets as well as raise revenue.

  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Six Reasons Why Supermajority Requirements to Raise Taxes Are a Bad Idea (February 2012)
    • Key excerpt: “An argument often heard in debates over supermajorities is that state taxes should be lower. But there is little evidence that states with such requirements actually have lower taxes. The average state with a constitutional supermajority rule covering all tax increases has tax levels that are nearly identical to the tax levels in the average other state. Taxes have been flat as a share of personal income in both supermajority and non-supermajority states for the last three decades.”
  • PBS: Gridlock Grips California Government (November 2011)
    • Key excerpt: “It takes a two-thirds vote in the legislature to raise taxes, and the Republicans (like their counterparts in Washington) would not vote for any such increase. So the governor cut money for schools, universities, health care, social services, parks and practically everything else the state is involved in. This is not good news for those who depend on state aid.”
  • State Building & Construction Trades Council of California: That’s Enough Gridlock; Time to End the Two-Thirds Vote Threshold for Tax Measures (February 2013)
    • Key Excerpt: “It’s pretty clear that this arbitrary two-thirds requirement is causing great harm throughout California. It is unfair and unjust, it is thwarting the will of the people, and it is harming our quality of life by blocking badly needed improvements for transportation and other infrastructure building.”
  • Michigan League for Human Services: Supermajority Proposal: A Super-Bad Idea for Michigan (June 2012)
    • Key Excerpt: “Efforts to end ineffective and unfair tax breaks that benefit large, profitable corporations and other special interests would also be subject to the supermajority requirement since they would raise revenue. This would make it much more difficult to eliminate them even if they fail to create jobs. But only a simple majority would be needed to create or expand costly tax loopholes.”

At NPI, we believe majority rule is good for Democrats and Republicans alike. We believe we should learn from the experience of states like California, which have been paralyzed by legislative gridlock due to undemocratic, unwise schemes that allow a submajority to dictate what happens to revenue bills and budgets.

Our state’s founders discussed what the appropriate threshold for passage of bills was when they wrote our Constitution, and they decided, appropriately, that a majority vote was the only standard that made sense. Our tradition of majority rule has served us well since statehood, and we ought to keep it. SJR 8211 should be rejected.

Larry Haler’s House Bill 2255 lives on as an initiative to the people

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

In response to Republican State Representative Larry Haler’s disappointing decision to withdraw House Bill 2255, legislation that sought to replace Tim Eyman’s I-747 with a more sensible property tax policy, NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve today introduced the bill as an initiative to the people to ensure that the proposal will live on and be easily accessible for public discussion and comment.

“We wish Larry Haler had stood behind his bill,” said Villeneuve. “Since he’s chosen to pull it and neither of his Democratic cosponsors wanted to take it over, it’s been erased from the Legislature’s website – as if it never existed. To ensure that it remains accessible, NPI has transformed it into an initiative to the people. The only change we’ve made is to add an intent section. Otherwise, we’ve left the bill as it was.”

Anyone doing a bill-specific search for HB 2255 now sees an error when putting in that number, due to the bill having been withdrawn. A broader search of the Legislature’s website will turn up information pertaining to bills with the same number from other years. The bill’s text stayed up for a while longer, but now it’s gone, too.

This morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email to his followers and the media crowing about the bill’s demise and taking credit for having intimidated Haler into withdrawing the bill. Eyman, of course, stands to benefit if Washington State’s tax code remains broken and regressive: it ensures that there will be grist for future initiatives from his mill.

But what’s good for Tim Eyman isn’t good for Washington State.

“We are long overdue for meaningful action to fix our broken tax code,” Villeneuve said. “If Republicans who are in a position of responsibility wish to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem, then they need to declare their independence from Tim Eyman and demonstrate a willingness to work with Democrats on reform.”

“We were encouraged when Larry Haler introduced HB 2255, and just as equally disappointed when he folded under pressure and pulled it. He could have set a good example for his party and done the people of Washington an important service by standing up to Tim Eyman. Eyman may not want to admit it, but Washington’s essential public services – from schools to mental health services to parks to ferries – are woefully underfunded and reliant on the nation’s most regressive tax system for the little money they are getting.”

“How many more times is the Legislature going to take the lowest road and pass a budget that relies on accounting gimmicks, fund transfers, and other trickery to paper over the worsening structural problems we’ve got?” Villeneuve asked.

“And for how much longer are county and city leaders supposed to scrape by under I-747, the Death-By-A-Thousand-Cuts Initiative? Washington’s public services are one of its greatest assets, and we should be protecting and strengthening them… not allowing them to waste away under an ill-conceived Tim Eyman initiative.”

The transformed text of House Bill 2255 is available from the Secretary of State’s website. The just-filed initiative will eventually receive a ballot number, title, and summary, once the text is finalized.

Statement on Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen’s ruling upholding majority rule

Legislation & Testimony

Responding to a point of order from Senator Steve Hobbs of Snohomish County, Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen today ruled in his capacity as President of the Washington State Senate that a rule previously adopted by Senate Republicans that requires two-thirds votes to raise revenue is unconstitutional and thus unenforceable.

“The President has previously stated, The Senate cannot pass a rule that violates the state Constitution,” the Democratic Lieutenant Governor told senators, adding: “Perhaps that statement should be clarified to read, The Senate may adopt an unconstitutional rule, but the President will not enforce it.”

“Lieutenant Governor Owen’s ruling upholding majority rule is an important victory for democracy, sense, and the rule of law,” said NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve. “Senate Republicans have no more right to violate Article II, Section 22 of our state Constitution than Tim Eyman does through the destructive, unconstitutional initiatives he continues to sponsor. Our plan of government clearly states that bills shall pass by majority vote. That means fifty percent or greater: no more and no less. This threshold cannot be altered on a whim by Republicans who would like to make it more difficult to raise the revenue our essential public services need.”

“In January 2013, when Brad Owen once again took the oath of office as Washington’s Lieutenant Governor, he affirmed that he would ‘support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington’. His ruling today is in keeping with that oath, and we thank him for faithfully discharging his duties. The people of Washington are well served by his leadership.

Tim Eyman’s “analysis” of initiative-related bills and amendments isn’t to be trusted

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Throughout the past week and a half, Tim Eyman has been sending a flurry of emails to his followers and the media decrying proposals in the Legislature to change the initiative process, particularly Senate Joint Resolution 8201 and House Joint Resolution 4204, which would amend the Constitution to prevent Washingtonians from filing initiatives that do not fiscally balance.

We have reviewed the contents of these messages and found them riddled with statements that are lacking context or inaccurate. Eyman’s commentary is, in a word, sloppy. We urge reporters and producers to do their own research and not rely on any of Eyman’s emails for information about SJR 8201, HJR 4204, or any of the other bills Eyman is attacking.

Here are a few examples of what we mean when we say sloppy:

EYMAN CLAIM: “Thanks to your emails, Olympia’s anti-initiative bills are imploding… Amid all-out mutiny, Sen. Joe Fain abandons constitutional amendment attacking initiative process” (Eyman email, Friday, January 30th, 2015)

MISSING CONTEXT: Eyman would no doubt like to be credited with stopping SJR 8201 and HJR 4204 in their tracks, but what he doesn’t acknowledge is that these resolutions aren’t just opposed by him and his followers. Secretary of Kim Wyman’s office strongly opposes SJR 8201 and HJR 4204, as does the Northwest Progressive Institute (see our analysis from last Friday, which looks at three fatal flaws in SJR 8201 in-depth). The truth is, SJR 8201 and HJR 4204 are unworkable, and that’s why neither is likely to even get a public hearing.

OLYMPIA IS A CITY, NOT THE STATE LEGISLATURE: Tim Eyman is very fond of using Olympia as a metonym for the state Legislature and state government – as are others active in Washington State politics. However, as Olympia blogger Emmett O’Connell notes, Olympia is a city of nearly fifty thousand people that happens to be the home of the Capitol Campus. While it is entirely appropriate for a story about state government to use a byline bearing the city’s name, we encourage reporters and commentators not to use Olympia as a metonym for state government. In many situations, the word statehouse works rather well as a substitute.

EYMAN CLAIM: “There’s a new bill this year House Bill 1228 — co-sponsored by R’s and D’s — that requires the state budget office (OFM) to do a fiscal analysis of any initiative that qualifies for the ballot and requires their fiscal report to be printed in the voters pamphlet.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Who can be against that? The problem? It’s already the law.” (Eyman email, Thursday, January 29th, 2015)

THIS IS IN ERROR: Tim Eyman may have been fooled into thinking that HB 1228 restates current law by reading its official description (Requiring fiscal impact statements for ballot measures). But if he had bothered to read through the text of the bill carefully (PDF), he would have discovered that what the bill actually does is require proponents and opponents of initiatives to respond to OFM’s initiative fiscal impact statement for their arguments in the voter’s pamphlet. Section 2 of HB 1228 adds the following phrase to RCW 29A.32.060 and 2003 c 111 s 806:

Committees shall write and submit arguments advocating the approval or rejection of each statewide ballot issue ((and)), rebuttals of those arguments, and statements responding to each fiscal impact statement prepared by the office of financial management.

EYMAN CLAIM: “Their bill [SJR 8201] will mean the end of the initiative process because it will give the government the power to shut down any initiative they see as a threat. Any initiative can easily be found to be ‘out of compliance’ with this bill’s requirement.” (Eyman email, Thursday, January 22nd, 2015)

SJR 8201 IS A RESOLUTION, NOT A BILL: Contrary to what Tim says above, SJR 8201 is not a bill. Tim ought to know this after over fifteen years of involvement in Washington politics, but constitutional amendments and statutes (ordinary laws) are different things, and the distinction matters. Laws begin as bills; the Constitution says bills require a majority vote to pass (Article II, Section 22). Constitutional amendments begin as resolutions; they require a two-thirds vote to pass (Article XXIII, Section 1).

SJR 8201 WOULDN’T MEAN THE END OF ALL INITIATIVES: Be wary of the hyperbole contained in Eyman’s emails. While SJR 8201 would indeed significantly narrow the people’s initiative power by barring initiatives that do not “fiscally balance” from receiving ballot titles, it would not end the process altogether. This is hardly the first time Eyman has exaggerated the impact of a resolution or bill he didn’t like, and it won’t be the last, either.

EYMAN CLAIM: “Citizens are forced to accept thousands of the Legislature’s laws; it’s not too much to ask that elected representatives stop throwing childish temper tantrums over the handful passed by the people.” (Eyman email, Thursday, January 29th, 2015)

ALL OF WASHINGTON’S LAWS ARE THE PEOPLE’S LAWS: Tim Eyman frequently attempts to portray the Legislature as a villain. His contempt for republicanism is regrettable. Like the United States as a whole, Washington was founded as a representative democracy, and remains one today. The Washington State Legislature is a representative body; its members are chosen every two and four years in free elections that are open to every citizen of voting age who is not serving a felony sentence. Laws passed by the Legislature are as much the people’s laws as those enacted by initiative. Unlike the initiative and referendum, which were added to the Constitution in the 1900s, the Legislature is an institution that dates back to statehood. The initiative and referendum were not intended to supplant the Legislature, but rather to complement it. It is logical that the vast majority of our state’s laws have come out of the Legislature; lawmaking is what the Legislature exists to do.

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

Legislation & TestimonyThreat Analysis

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.”

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

Legislation & TestimonyThreat Analysis

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.”

Setting the record straight on HB 2552

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and Reframing

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).

Tim Eyman again floods reporters’ inboxes with worthless ten-year cost projections

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Just before 10 AM this morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email claiming that the House Democrats’ revenue package raises taxes by $5.3 billion. Eyman enclosed a table of ten year cost estimates prepared by the Office of Financial Management (OFM).

What Eyman neglected to mention is that these ten year cost projections are worthless, and OFM only prepares them because they’re required to under Eyman’s Initiative 960. Eyman, a master of media manipulation, put a provision requiring the projections into his initiative so that he can regularly send reporters tables like this, and inflate the amount of proposed revenue increases.

Anything sounds bigger when it’s stretched out over ten years. Tim Eyman may well make over a million dollars from his initiative factory…. over the next ten years. His campaign committee “Voters Want More Choices” may well be the recipient of more than $20 million in checks from powerful interests like BP, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and ConocoPhillips… over the next ten years.

Eyman knows as well as we do that the Legislature prepares and adopts biennial budgets, not decennial budgets. But he doesn’t care.

“$5.3 billion” sounds much scarier than $885 million.

Eyman also doesn’t care that his “advisory vote” scheme is unconstitutional and a colossal waste of money. He likes the prospect of twelve separate questions on the November ballot asking the people of Washington to give their opinion on any increases in revenue the Legislature approves – because he already knows what the results to those twelve questions would be.

But again, what Eyman doesn’t like to admit is that the answers you get depend on the questions you ask. If the Legislature put a bunch of “advisory vote” questions on the ballot asking Washingtonians if they like the idea of putting more money into universities, K-12 education, state parks, Apple Health, Disability Lifeline, and other vital public services, we’d undoubtedly see a whole lot of “yes” votes in response. Remember, we’ve seen initiatives that could be called unfunded mandates pass handily in the past. (I-728 and I-732 are good examples).

The Constitution provides for an initiative and referendum process; it does not provide for “advisory votes”. Eyman’s advisory vote scheme is unconstitutional, and it’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court did not strike it down in its LEV decision. It means that further legal action will likely be needed in order to remove the thirsty leech Eyman’s initiatives have slapped on the state and counties’ elections budgets.

Direct democracy turns one hundred in Washington: Time to bring back the *citizen* initiative

Legislation & TestimonyThreat Analysis

One hundred years ago, the people of Washington prevailed upon their legislators to offer an amendment to the state’s Constitution providing for citizen lawmaking through the initiative and the referendum. That amendment, which the people adopted, was meant to give Washingtonians a stronger voice in their own government, complementing the legislative process rather than supplanting it. At many points during the last ten decades, the initiative and referendum have served as a helpful check on the Legislature, paving the way for change that otherwise would have fallen victim to dithering, inaction, or corruption.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the powers of direct democracy have been used more for ill than good, as exemplified by the emergence of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory.

Last week, Permanent Defense celebrated and commemorated its tenth anniversary, and a few days later, in honor of the one hundredth birthday of the initiative and referendum in Washington, Washington State University organized a forum on direct democracy in Olympia to ponder the question of whether the initiative process really still belongs to the people. (In our view, that’s no longer a question: the answer is no, and the evidence backing up that answer is overwhelming).

Eyman, who participated in the forum, sent out an email today attempting to portray himself as a tolerant good-guy looking out for the people’s right to make law at the ballot – ironic given that he has done more than anyone else to co-opt the initiative process on behalf of powerful interests.

His email included this paragraph worth of statistics which caught our attention:

An interesting fact: over the past 13 years, voters have passed into law 21 initiatives. Of those, 11 were liberal ideas and 10 were conservative. Of the 10 conservative initiatives, 7 of them were ours.

Since it is always a bad idea to trust Tim Eyman’s numbers, we went and looked up the electoral history ourselves. As it turns out, Eyman only fudged one number – the total number of initiatives Washington voters have passed into law over the last thirteen elections. It’s actually twenty-three, not twenty-one.

We would agree that eleven of those twenty-three successful initiatives could be described as liberal ideas – they were measures that had progressive backing. We would also agree that ten of those successful initiatives could be described as conservative ideas – they were measures with right wing backing.

However, voters also considered three measures that we don’t think correspond to ideological battle lines: I-696 from 1999 (concerned fishing restrictions), I-713 from 2000 (concerned outlawing certain types of traps), and I-872 from 2004 (concerned with creating a “Top Two” winnowing election).

The former initiative was defeated and the latter two were passed.

Furthermore, there were  fifteen other measures on the ballot over the last thirteen years that did not pass. Most of those were right wing initiatives, as the data below shows. Figures in bold denote the numbers of initiatives that voters passed; figures in roman denote the numbers of initiatives that voters rejected.

Progressive (left-wing) initiatives

  • 1999: None
  • 2000: 728, 732
  • 2001: 773, 775
  • 2002: 790
  • 2003: None
  • 2004: 297, 884
  • 2005: 336, 901
  • 2006: 937
  • 2007: None
  • 2008: 1000, 1029
  • 2009: None
  • 2010: 1098
  • 2011: 1163

Total overall: 14
Total successful: 11

Conservative (right-wing) initiatives

  • 1999: 695
  • 2000: 722, 729, 745
  • 2001: 747
  • 2002: 776
  • 2003: 841
  • 2004: 892
  • 2005: 900, 912, 330
  • 2006: 920, 933
  • 2007: 960
  • 2008: 985
  • 2009: 1033
  • 2010: 1053, 1082, 1100, 1105, 1107
  • 2011: 1125, 1183

Total overall: 22
Total successful: 10

Please note that referendum bills and referendum measures are not included in the above figures – nor are proposed constitutional amendments, which may only be put on the ballot by the Legislature, and tend to be uncontroversial.

Though the data above paints a more complete picture of our recent electoral history than Tim Eyman did in his email, it still leaves out out a lot. Without discussion and analysis, context is lacking. The lists above are analogous to a line score: they tell us what happened, but not how or why.

For instance, one important thing we can’t see from looking at these numbers is that many of the progressive initiatives that voters passed over the last thirteen years were modest in scope and did not attract particularly strong opposition.

Conversely, nearly all the right wing initiatives (both successes and failures) were deliberately written to inflict a great deal of harm to our common wealth or plan of government and, as a consequence, were fought by a series of well-organized no campaigns. Such aggressiveness by conservatives may result in a lower statistical win/loss ratio, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a profitable strategy.

To the contrary: It pays serious dividends.

That’s because even when they don’t win, conservatives still force progressives to commit substantial resources to defending the state.

And when they are successful, they can cause a lot of damage in one broad stroke, since the ramifications of their schemes are so far-reaching.

When progressives brought direct democracy here a hundred years ago, they hoped future generations would use the initiative and referendum as tools to build Washington into a stronger state. And on many occasions, the initiative has been used to allow the people to vote on ideas to improve quality of life.

But unfortunately, in recent years, the citizen initiative has turned into the corporate initiative. With the help of a rogue’s gallery of wealthy benefactors, Tim Eyman has showed how the process can be abused and hijacked to serve destructive ends: sabotaging our Constitution, crippling our common wealth, eviscerating public services, eroding public trust in government, and discouraging civility.

In between sponsoring his ill-conceived initiatives, Eyman has become a regular visitor to the Capitol Campus in Olympia, appearing at legislative hearings to denounce efforts to return the initiative process to the people and falsely accusing those in favor of reform with wanting to do away with direct democracy altogether. Were the initiative process to be more grassroots-oriented (as the framers of the Seventh Amendment intended it to be), it would complicate Eyman’s operation, which cannot run without six figure checks from wealthy benefactors.

It should come as no surprise that Tim Eyman’s unrelenting, knee-jerk opposition to initiative reform has more to do with self-interest than principles.

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