Category Archives: Legislation & Testimony

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.

RE: Given the state’s newest revenue forecast…

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Washington’s Legislature passed a budget last spring that relied on revenue forecasts which were too optimistic. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council yesterday projected that the state will collect $1.4 billion less in taxes between now and 2013 than it had previously estimated.

Consequently, Governor Gregoire and lawmakers must now figure out how to close yet another deficit, after having already eliminated or slashed vital public services earlier this year.

Unless the governor and lawmaker decide to raise revenue to close the shortfall, there is no way that this deficit can be closed without hurting the lives of Washington families, especially seniors, youth, and veterans. We are the past the point, figuratively speaking, where we are scraping bone as a state, in terms of our public services. Without new revenue, we’ll have to chop off limbs.

The governor and state lawmakers ought to call upon those who fiercely oppose raising revenue – including Tim Eyman and his corporate allies – and insist that they help write a modified state budget. The time has come for the people responsible for bringing us Initiative 1053 to take responsibility for the consequences stemming from the outcome of the election they bought.

Tim Eyman has turned himself into a full-time citizen – sorry, make that corporate – lawmaker. If lawmaking is what he wants to do, then he needs to be accountable like any other lawmaker. We have a fiscal emergency.

This is an all hands on deck situation.

We at NPI propose that the state begin closing this $1.4 billion shortfall by sunsetting outdated and unnecessary tax loopholes.

For instance, there is a loophole on our books now which allows Wall Street banks to avoid paying business and occupation taxes on the interest or investment earnings made from the interest from residential first mortgages. There are dozens upon dozens of loopholes like this that could be closed, which could save what is left of our public services from being further eviscerated.

If Tim Eyman and his sympathizers do not want to raise revenue as we propose, then they must spell out what they want to cut. That is the only other choice. Eyman said today, “With I-1053, tax increases become an absolute last resort… Olympia must exhaust all other options first. That’s what the people want.”

Actually, what people want is for the economy to get better. But it won’t as long we keep wrecking government and destroying public services, which is the only course of action that I-1053 was designed to allow.

We encourage reporters and lawmakers to take every opportunity to ask Tim Eyman: What “other options” do you have in mind?

Should we cut off our universities and colleges and say, “You’re on your own! No more state money!” Should we begin releasing prison inmates early? Should we end Apple Health or Disability Lifeline entirely?

As a state, we can either move forward or slide backward. We can move forward by raising revenue to save vital public services that we all depend on. Or, we can slide backward by eliminating services, laying off more public workers, and abandoning people who desperately need help.

There isn’t a third choice.

Our elected lawmakers have spent the last decade backfilling like crazy, cleaning up after unelected lawmakers like Tim Eyman. Well, the days when we could backfill and mitigate the ramifications Eyman’s initiatives are over.

Now come the days of reckoning.

For too long, Governor Gregoire and lawmakers have tried to ignore Tim Eyman because they haven’t wanted to confront him.

But we need a confrontation. Washingtonians need to be given an opportunity to think about what kind of state they want to live in before the governor and Legislature play TimCity for real. If Eyman and his corporate backers want a budget with no new revenue in it, they need to help write that budget. The governor and state lawmakers should insist that they participate in identifying cuts.

And reporters should start replying to every email Tim Eyman sends with a simple one-liner: Hey Tim… what do you think we should cut?

State Representative Marko Liias: Tim Eyman is an ignorant blowhard

Legislation & Testimony

State Representative Marko Liias, who has the unfortunate distinction of having Tim Eyman as a constituent, says he’s had it with the watch salesman-turned-initiative promoter after Eyman harshly berated Liias for introducing a bill allowing Western Washington transit agencies to raise revenue through vehicle fees.

Liias gave Eyman a piece of his mind in a Facebook note posted last night. It read, in part:

I have proposed a simple little bill to give local transit agencies one way to protect transit service and reduce congestion.  My bill would let local elected officials vote on a temporary charge of up to $30 to support local transit service.  That’s it.  I want to let local community leaders make a decision about local infrastructure.

And it’s no blank check, either.  They have to write a plan on how the new funds will help reduce congestion, and they have to report on their progress.  And did I mention that the new congestion reduction charge is temporary?  The bill expires at the end of 2013.

But, Tim Eyman sees this as an opportunity to grandstand and beat his chest about “his” initiative, and keep the press talking about him.  Well, Tim Eyman, I think you should read your own initiative. It applies to state decisions, not local ones. Unless you want to run for city council and then try and get on the Community Transit board of directors, you should leave these decisions to the folks that do care.

By “your own initiative”, Liias means Initiative 1053, Eyman’s most recent, which reimposed the unconstitutional “two-thirds” threshold for raising revenue that been established by I-960 and I-601 before it. None of the aforementioned initiatives prevents local governments from democratically voting to raise revenue, or prevents the Legislature from democratically voting to give local governments new revenue-raising authority – although Eyman has drafted a measure to impose a two-thirds threshold on cities, counties, and ports.

Liias is hardly the first legislator or elected leader to voice his frustration with Eyman’s confrontational rhetoric and tactics. He won’t be the last, either. But it’s good he’s standing his ground. The only response Eyman respects is a forceful one. If Democratic representatives reframed aggressively every time Eyman attacked them, Eyman would be on the defensive more often.

RE: What does the phrase ‘Will of the people’ mean to you?

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and Reframing

Earlier this morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email which asked, in its subject line, “What does the phrase “will of the people” mean to you?” To us, those words mean that our cherished tradition of majority rule must never be compromised. Schemes that take away majority rule (such as Initiative 960 and Initiative 1053) ironically have the effect of infringing upon the will of the people.

Permit us to explain what we mean. In trying to garner publicity for Initiative 1053, Tim Eyman has deceptively tried to frame the effort to amend Initiative 960 as a “we the people versus the Legislature” conflict.

It’s a lie. There is no such conflict. We, the people, elected this Legislature, and we, the people, reelected Governor Chris Gregoire to a second four year term. What’s more, during the last two years we, the people, have rejected not one, but two Tim Eyman initiatives, at the ballot.

In moving to unlock Initiative 960’s shackles, the Legislature is doing precisely what Tim Eyman is attacking it for not doing… responding to the will of the people.

We don’t elect legislators to kowtow to the likes of Tim Eyman, who wants to rip our common wealth to shreds. We elect legislators to govern, wisely and justly. If we do not like the decisions we make, we can choose new leaders. That’s how representative democracy works. Tim Eyman has consistently sought to undermine representative democracy by making it harder for elected leaders to do their jobs and proposing schemes that add undemocratic, un-American hurdles into the legislative process.

Initiative 960, which was approved by a narrow majority in 2007, never should have taken effect, and not just because it is blatantly unconstitutional. It never should have taken effect because we the people have no authority to take away our own rights. Democracy cannot be used to abolish democracy.

A majority of Washingtonians, voting at an election, cannot decide to deprive a future majority of their rights. That this happened and could not be reversed until now is a travesty. The Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on Initiative 960’s constitutionality (the Court was asked to do so twice, in two separate lawsuits) does not make Initiative 960, or Initiative 1053, legitimate.

For additional analysis, check out this post from the NPI Advocate, the blog of our parent organization.

Special session coverage

Legislation & Testimony

Permanent Defense’s parent organization, the Northwest Progressive Institute, has coverage of today’s special session at the Official Blog.

Please view the following posts for more information:

(Last Updated December 3rd, 2007)

Eyman attacks courageous lawmakers

Legislation & TestimonyStatements & Advisories

In an e-mail to supporters today, copied to the media, Tim Eyman tried to attack and vilify lawmakers for their tremendous courage in passing legislation that will move Washington forward.

Tim also revealed that he needs a civic lesson.

If Mr. Eyman knew anything about the government of the United States of America and of the state of Washington, he would know that it is a republic. In a republic, citizens vote to elect representatives who pass laws and run the government. Those representatives are directly responsible to the people.

Mr. Eyman acts as if the legislature does not have the authority to pass a transportation package or increase taxes to fund safer roads – which the state Constitution explicitly says it does.

Consider the following:

  • Legislators do not need to go to the people to obtain approval for every law they pass. That completely defeats the purpose of a republic and is wholly impractical. Legislators should also not be guided just by past votes on initiatives and referenda. They should look to the future and not the past in determining what is best for the state of Washington.
  • Making tough decisions is difficult. Lawmakers looked to the future of Washington State and saw that more funding would be necessary to invest in a good transportation network. We have crumbling bridges and roadways that need replacing. So they passed a new transportation funding package to invest in our state’s future and our region’s future despite pressure just to maintain the status quo. This was an admirable effort.
  • Similarly, lawmakers made decisions to invest in better education for our state and to not be constrained by supermajority requirements that allow a minority to control tax votes in the state Legislature. If voters don’t like those decisions, they can always elect new representatives. That’s how a republic works.
  • The initiative process has disadvantages. Mr. Eyman says he “reveres” initiatives for their “transparency and consistency”. Initiatives are not transparent. They’re not subject to the legislative process, which allows for public hearings, compromise, amendments, and changes. The legislative process produces better results because it allows for revision and for collaboration. Mr. Eyman’s initiatives have a history of being poorly drafted and unconstitutional.
  • Christine Gregoire’s words are being manipulated. When Gregoire was campaigning for governor, she never said she would be against any tax increases. She did say she was against general increases in the sales tax. Eyman and others are distorting her language to make it appear as if she broke her word.

Lawmakers and members of the media don’t need a lecture from Mr. Eyman on the meaning of courage. This is coming from someone who pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in supporters’ donations for months while maintaining he was unpaid.

Was that a courageous decision, Mr. Eyman? Was that “having the personal strength and the intestinal fortitude to follow through on your promises”? Of course not.

Tim Eyman is the last person who should be preaching about moral values.

Washington State’s lawmakers and Governor Christine Gregoire, on the other hand, should be praised for their courageous leadership and a legislative session filled with good accomplishments.

Mr. Eyman’s attempts to vilify our state’s leaders should be ignored.

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