Category Archives: Legislation & Testimony

Statement on Senate passage of legislation to repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls

Legislation & TestimonyStatements & Advisories

This morning, the Washington State Senate adopted NPI-backed legislation to permanently abolish Tim Eyman’s push polls, which Eyman falsely calls advisory votes.

Senate Bill 5224, prime sponsored by Patty Kuderer, passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support.

Northwest Progressive Institute Founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve issued the following statement following the vote.

“Congratulations to the Washington State Senate on the passage of Senate Bill 5224! For over half a decade, Washingtonians’ ballots have been burdened with the clutter of Tim Eyman’s push polls… anti-tax, anti-government propaganda falsely dressed up as plebiscites. Thankfully, we are now on the verge of getting rid of what has become an annual exercise in trickery and confusion. ‘Advisory votes’ are wasteful and deceptive. They are intended to shape public opinion, not measure it. Their very naming is dishonest. To ascertain where the public is on any issue, it’s vital to ask neutrally-worded questions. A question that suggests its own answer will not yield any useful data.”

In a presentation to the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee one month ago, Villeneuve demonstrated how similar the advisory votes are to traditional telephone push polls, which are listed in the most recent version of Safire’s Political Dictionary under the entry DIRTY TRICKS. Not long after that hearing, the Committee voted unanimously to advance Senate Bill 5224, with all three Republicans voting aye.

Those same three Republicans joined most of the Senate’s Democratic members in voting for Senate Bill 5224, and were essential to the bill’s final passage.

“NPI is extremely grateful to Senators Hans Zeiger, Barbara Bailey, and Brad Hawkins for their votes in support of SB 5224,” said Villeneuve.

“These three Republican Senators listened to what we had to say in committee and then took a courageous vote twice to repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls, knowing full well that they were voting against Eyman’s wishes. They did the right thing instead of bowing to Eyman’s self-serving demands. This is what public service is supposed to be about: listening with an open mind and then voting for what’s in the best interest of our state.”

“We also want to thank Senator Patty Kuderer, who represents the Northwest Progressive Institute’s home legislative district, the 48th. Without Senator Kuderer’s leadership, this bill wouldn’t have been introduced, wouldn’t have earned a do pass recommendation, and wouldn’t have passed out of the State Senate today. NPI is honored to be represented by Senator Kuderer, and looks forward to continuing to work with her to raise Washington’s quality of life.”

Panicking Tim Eyman tries new gimmick to stop initiative reform: Impersonating Secretary of State Kim Wyman

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and Reframing

Bipartisan legislation that would address abuse of our state’s initiative and referendum powers by combating issues like signature fraud and petitioner misconduct continues to progress closer to becoming a reality in Olympia, thanks to the new dynamic in the statehouse created by Manka Dhingra’s victory in the 45th District last year.

That’s welcome news for Washingtonians, but not for disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who is in full-blown panic mode over the prospect of the bill’s passage.

This week, following the Senate’s overwhelming passage of ESSB 5397, Eyman tried to convince Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman to publicly oppose the bill by instructing his followers to email her at both her official and nonofficial email addresses, and to copy him on those messages. But Wyman hasn’t budged. She’s chosen to be neutral.

Frustrated, Eyman decided today to send out an email with a false premise and false subject line… one that made it sound like Wyman had come over to his side (Sec of State Kim Wyman’s heroic & courageous opposition to anti-initiative bill).

“In the Legislature, ninety-nine times out of one hundred, powerful special interest groups call the shots, politicians bow to their will, and the voices of grassroots citizens are completely ignored. That’s what makes what Sec of State Kim Wyman did today so unique. Don’t you find this statement inspiring?” the email began.

Eyman then proceeded to impersonate Wyman in a lengthy statement that made a lot of bogus and erroneous arguments against ESSB 5397.

Only at the end of his message did Eyman concede the whole thing was a fabrication made up by him, sulkily admitting: “Too bad Kim Wyman didn’t send out that statement. Instead she skipped yesterday’s hearing [in the House State Government Committee] and just sent out an email this morning saying she’s neutral on the bill.”

Eyman did not bother to include the text of Wyman’s message from her Legislative Relations Director stating her actual position. But we’ve included it below for reference.

Sadly, this kind of duplicitous communication is par for the course for Eyman, who has a long history of resorting to inappropriate stunts and gimmicks in an attempt to attract media coverage and dupe people into backing his agenda.

NPI’s Permanent Defense project has now worked for sixteen years to counter Eyman’s misinformation and remains committed to ensuring that Eyman gets the vigorous, unceasing opposition that he deserves.

Kim Wyman’s actual position on ESSB 5397

Thank you for reaching out to the Office of Secretary of State to communicate your concerns regarding Senate Bill 5397.

To be clear, this bill does not change or alter the process in which the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office certifies an initiative or referendum, nor does it create any additional requirements for volunteer signature gatherers.

It would, however, require entities [campaigns] that hire petition signature gatherers to disclose to the public the identities and other information of those [companies] who employ paid signature gatherers. The bill places those disclosure processes with the Public Disclosure Commission.

Both the initiative and referendum filing and certification processes would remain unchanged by this bill. The State Elections Division checks every signature sheet submitted for evidence of fraud and also checks suspect petition signatures against signatures in the Washington State Voter Registration Database. The courts have found that our signature-checking process is the most effective way to prevent fraudulent signatures from getting an unqualified measure on the ballot.

The Washington State Constitution guarantees citizens the right to initiative and referenda – a right I fully support and do not want to see diminished. I also support transparency in the elections process, which is critical to maintaining the integrity of the system and upholding the public trust.

For these reasons, and because this bill has no impact on [legitimate] petition signatures, does not change the initiative and referendum process, nor does it change my office’s role in certifying a submitted ballot measure, I have taken a neutral position on Senate Bill 5397 and its companion, House Bill 1537, throughout this legislative session.

I encourage you to contact your representatives in the Washington State Senate and House of Representatives and share your concerns, as they will ultimately determine the fate of this legislation.


Reality check: Petitioning disclosure bill was crafted to be constitutional

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and Reframing

Contrary to what Tim Eyman has claimed, there’s nothing unconstitutional about requiring ballot measure campaigns to report within ten days when they have hired a signature gathering company to circulate petitions for them or requiring companies to keep accurate, up to date records about their workers for their protection and the public’s protection.

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Lawmakers are discussing levying a capital gains tax because most Washingtonians want progressive tax reform

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Next Friday, the House Finance Committee will be holding a hearing on Representative Kris Lytton’s HB 2967, which would levy a capital gains excise tax on the wealthiest Washingtonians and use the revenue to partially offset recent property tax increases.

The prospect of a capital gains tax (which Oregon and Idaho already have) terrifies disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who selfishly wants Washington’s tax code to remain as upside down as possible so there will always be an appetite for future anti-tax initiatives sponsored by him and his buddies Jack and Mike Fagan.

Accordingly, Eyman has taken a break from bashing lawmakers over the prospect of initiative process reform (which also terrifies him) to launch a broadside against the bill, in which he compared taxes to heroin, and legislators to heroin users.

“The first injection of heroin is a rush, but after that the user needs more and more and more to get that same feeling,” Eyman wrote. “It’s like that with politicians and taxes — they love the feeling of euphoria that comes from imposing a new tax, but they need to increase it again and again and again to maintain their high.”

This is utter nonsense, of course — anyone who has reported on the Legislature or followed the Legislature for any length of time knows that revenue bills are huge lifts that can require years of work, even when there are Republican lawmakers who are willing to vote aye — but the more important point here is that lawmakers are contemplating a levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy because the people of Washington want one.

NPI’s statewide research surveys have consistently found robust majorities in support of the idea of a capital gains tax on the wealthy. In 2015, when we first asked about the idea, 55% of respondents answered favorably. Last year, when we surveyed 887 likely November voters, the percentage in support of a capital gains tax was 57%.

Here’s the question we asked:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose taxing the capital gains of wealthy individuals to help pay for public schools, colleges and universities?

Answers were as follows:

  • Support: 57%
    • Strongly support: 44%
    • Somewhat support: 13%
  • Oppose: 41%
    • Somewhat oppose: 12%
    • Strongly oppose: 29%
  • Not sure: 1%

Conducted by the respected firm Public Policy Polling, the aforementioned survey of 887 likely 2018 Washington State voters was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respondents participated via landline. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.

“Washington has many strengths as a state, but our tax code is not one of them,” noted NPI founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve. “Our regressive tax code requires those with the least to pay the most as a percentage of their income. That’s upside down. Levying a capital gains excise tax would enable us to take a step towards correcting this imbalance. A just tax system should be based on ability to pay, and ours isn’t. This is a problem Washingtonians want to see their elected representatives address.”

The fiscal note for HB 2967 is available from the Office of Financial Management (OFM). The fiscal note assumes that approximately 48,000 taxpayers would pay capital gains taxes (for taxes due in 2020) if the bill were adopted in its current form. $824.5 million would be raised in Fiscal Year 2020, and $447 million in Fiscal Year 2021.

The state also created a ten-year fiscal projection for HB 2967 as required by Tim Eyman’s I-960, which Eyman linked to in his email. NPI would like to remind you that ten-year fiscal projections only exist for the purpose of allowing Tim Eyman to throw around really big, misleading numbers when he sends out his anti-tax email missives.

Anything sounds much more impressive when you take it out over ten years. Multiply your current annual wages by ten, for example, and you’ll end up with a much bigger number.

That number ostensibly represents how much you’ll be paid  — but for the next decade as opposed to the current year. It’s highly misleading, because your compensation is very likely to change over the next decade. You may even change jobs or employers, and end up with a different salary or pay structure. It is a well understood precept of forecasting that the farther out a forecast goes, the more likely it is to be in error.

The ten-year fiscal projections Eyman’s I-960 stupidly requires for revenue bills are no more useful than ten-year compensation projections, and should be ignored.

NPI plans to offer testimony in support of HB 2967 at next Friday’s hearing of the House Finance Committee. Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve will be available before or after the hearing for interviews.

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.

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