Politicians in Olympia are hell-bent this year to kill the citizens’ initiative process.
There’s been a slew of anti-initiative bills introduced and with the Democrats in complete control, it’s now become a top legislative priority for them to end the right to initiative.
The First Amendment rights of the people have never been in greater danger.
For years, a Democrat senator from Seattle named Ken Jacobsen pushed a constitutional amendment to get rid of the initiative process. At least he was honest; he didn’t think voters were smart enough to decide public policy issues, so he straightforwardly sought the removal of the people’s right to initiative from the Constitution.
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His quixotic efforts failed. The lesson that politicians should have learned was: Don’t take away the people’s rights.
Unfortunately, anti-initiative politicians decided instead the only problem was Jacobsen’s honesty. So now, with fake smiles and false rhetoric, legislators who hate the initiative process try to achieve surreptitiously what they can’t do honestly: End the right to initiative.
Such is the case with this year’s Senate Bill 5386 sponsored by Seattle senators Jamie Pedersen, David Frockt, Reuven Carlyle and others.
Getting an initiative qualified for a public vote is already super tough. A massive number of signatures is required. But under SB5386, years of delays would be mandated before signature collecting could even begin. Here’s how:
After you pay a $500 filing fee (99 times higher than the current $5 fee), their bill would require a 45-day review of the initiative by the state attorney general. It then would require a 30-day public comment period.
Then it would allow anyone to legally challenge the initiative, guaranteeing years of delay and forcing the courts, for the first time, to review initiatives that haven’t even qualified for a vote or been approved by the people.
Only after all that would the initiative be given a ballot title, which is necessary before petitions can be printed.
SB5386 is the initiative-death-by-delay bill.
Worst of all, it would ensure that all laws passed by the Legislature will never be challenged. Lawmakers have already neutered the referendum power by slapping emergency clauses on laws they want immunized from citizen referendum.
But currently, when the Legislature passes a controversial law, even one with an emergency clause, the people still have the right to do an initiative to give the people a chance to overturn it.
SB5386’s delays would ensure that any legislative bill is never be put to a vote because the July deadline for signatures would be impossible to achieve.
It would ensure that anything the Legislature does – any tax imposed, any policy created, any right eliminated or created – will be referendum-proof and initiative-proof.
The people’s rights guaranteed by our state Constitution will be negated.
The politicians sponsoring this bill hate the initiative process and want it eliminated. But instead of proposing a constitutional amendment to remove our right to vote, as Jacobsen did, they claim, with a straight face, that they’re doing this to “help” the initiative process and “assist” initiative sponsors.
Don’t believe them.
Legislators introduce about 3,000 bills each session. Of those, around 500 become law. In contrast, about one or two initiatives each year make it to the ballot and voters approve just half (last year there weren’t any).
So the Legislature has a 99.8-percent monopoly on public policy. Nonetheless, that .2-percent of laws passed by the people gnaws at politicians because they want 100-percent control.
SB5386 is an abomination. Tell legislators to oppose it.
Tim Eyman is a longtime initiative activist and heads up the group Voters Want More Choices. Reach him at (425) 493-9127 or email@example.com