Archive for initiatives

Bill would add fiscal impact to initiative ballot titles

By | March 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

Voters would see the cost of initiatives  — and how the measure might lead to cuts in state programs and possible tax increases — on their ballots, under a bill heard Wednesday in a state House committee.

Senate Bill 5715 would require ballot titles for initiatives to include a statement of fiscal impact if the cost is $25 million or more. Ballots would include a sentence saying the initiative is “unfunded” and “other state spending may need to be reduced or taxes increased to implement to the proposal.”

Right now, fiscal impact statements for initiatives are included in the voter’s pamphlet. This bill would require the statement be placed directly on ballots, just above “yes” and “no” boxes.

The push comes after voters in November approved a measure to decrease class sizes statewide without a funding source, at a cost of $2 billion. The obligation is in addition to the state Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must fully fund education.

Supporters, including prime sponsor Auburn Republican Sen. Joe Fain, say the bill lets voters know the true cost of the measures they’re considering.

“Voters deserve the full accounting of initiatives being proposed, whether they result in cuts to state government or investments,” League of Education Voters’ Frank Ordway told the committee.

But opponents, like initiative promoter Tim Eyman, say a fiscal statement in the title will unfairly influence voters against the measure. “For 101 years, the Attorney General has been required to write a neutral ballot title,” Eyman said. “This bill really does violate that neutrality law by injecting personal prejudice with a bias, vote-suppressing warning label on certain initiatives.”

Under current law, initiative sponsors can challenge language used in a ballot title in court if they think the title is unfair. The bill doesn’t address whether the fiscal impact is subject to judicial review, but under the current version of the bill, the fiscal statement would be added after the deadline to challenge the ballot title.

The bill passed 41-8 in the state Senate. No action was taken in the House State Government during Wednesday’s hearing. It has so far not been scheduled for a vote.

Bill would open hearing rooms for ballot measure testimony

By | February 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

Legislative committees would be allowed to host work sessions to take testimony on ballot measures in legislative hearing rooms, under a bill proposed in the Senate Government Operations and Security committee on Monday.

Board chairwoman Pam Roach, R-Auburn, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 5661. She said legislative facilities should be an available venue for debates and testimony on the pros and cons of statewide ballot measures.

“My reasoning is this, the people own this campus. It’s theirs. They are paying for the lights and they are paying for everything that’s here. We are here to pass the laws that effect the people,” she said. “There should be the same access to TVW to see the debate back and forth.”

Other members of the committee were in general agreement with the proposal, and tweaked the language on the bill so it would only apply to statewide measures.

The Legislative Ethics Board in 1997 ruled that using a committee hearing to take pro and con testimony on a ballot measure generally is prohibited because it could be seen as indirectly helping the measure.

Categories: initiatives

Proposal would amend state’s Death with Dignity Act

By | February 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Doctors would be required to discuss possible cures and life-extending treatments with terminally ill patients when they seek medically-assisted suicide, if a state Senate bill passes.

Voters passed Washington’s Death with Dignity Act in 2008. Since then, patients with less than six months to live are able to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

Now, Sen. Jan Angel is sponsoring a bill to make the first change to the initiative. Current state law requires doctors to discuss pain control, comfort and hospice care when patients request life-ending medicine. Senate Bill 5919 would also require doctors discuss possible cures and life-extending treatments.

It’s a small change – not even a full sentence – but both supporters and critics say it makes a big difference.

Terminal patients need to know about every possible option, Angel told a Senate committee Thursday. “Doctors can be wrong,” the Port Orchard Republican said. “There can be mistakes, there can be new cures. There is hope.”

Dr. Kenneth Stevens says he’s seen patients live for years beyond what other doctors tell them to expect. The Oregon doctor, who testified remotely, is part of Physicians for Compassionate Care, an organization that opposes Washington’s law and others like it. “Life expectancies aren’t exact,” he said.

But critics say the bill would complicate an already-tough process.

Arline Hinckley works with Compassion and Choices, a Seattle-based end-of-life resource center. Death with Dignity, she says, is already used “rarely and cautiously.” Of the 51,000 statewide deaths in 2013, she says 119 were medically-assisted.

Doctors often overstate life expectancy, Hinckley said, and some patients already wait too long to start the process. “To raise the issue of cure is unfair to patient, who is already accepted the fact that they’re terminal,” she said.

No action was taken during Thursday’s hearing.

Categories: Healthcare, initiatives

Bill on initiative gathering ends meeting abruptly after back-and-forth

By | February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, ended a Government Operations and Security committee meeting early after a heated discussion on Senate Bill 5375.

The bill would add new requirements for paid petition gatherers for voter initiatives. All sides, including the chairwoman Pam Roach, took part in the spirited back-and-forth. You can watch it at TVW’s archives.

Categories: initiatives

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.


Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

Live in Olympia: TVW’s Sine Die show starts at 8 a.m. Thursday

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington’s legislative leaders will adjourn the 2014 session Thursday, unless a special session extends the deadline. But before they go back to their districts TVW will air back-to-back live interviews with more than 20 lawmakers starting at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Anita Kissée reporting live from the capitol rotunda for TVW's special edition mid-session show Feb. 18.

Anita Kissée, host of The Impact, will sit down with Gov. Jay Inslee, House Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan and House Republican leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen

Other guests include Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. The lawmakers will talk about a range of issues from education to the capital budget to the environment.

Plus, Austin Jenkins, host of TVW’s “Inside Olympia” and reporter for the Public Radio Northwest News Network, and Brian Rosenthal, a state government reporter for The Seattle Times, will stop by to talk about some highlights from the past 60 days and what to expect when the election process begins.

Coverage will be here on the blog, and you can watch live on TVW or via webcast.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Dream Act, ads in state parks and alcohol use among teens

By | February 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from the floor debate in the House over passing a version of the Dream Act. The show also has highlights from a committee hearing on a bill that would allow some advertising in state parks. Plus, a work session on alcohol and marijuana use among teenagers in the wake of Initiatives 1183 and 502.

Watch the show below:

Categories: Education, initiatives

Eyman initiative demands constitutional amendment vote on tax hikes

By | January 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Initiative activist Tim Eyman proposed a new voter initiative Monday that would cut $1 billion a year from the state budget unless the Legislature sends voters a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled last year that the two-thirds “supermajority” requirement violates the state constitution because a bill requires a simple majority vote of the Legislature to pass. The high court said a constitutional amendment would be necessary to implement the two-thirds requirement.

If voters approve Eyman’s initiative, the proposal would cut the state’s sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, or about $1 billion dollars a year, unless the Legislature puts a two-thirds constitutional amendment on the ballot by April 2015. If the constitutional amendment reaches voters by April 2015, the sales tax reduction never will go into effect.

“Our initiative gives the Legislature an impossible-to-ignore financial incentive to let us vote. It’s elegant, legal, and easy to explain,” Eyman said in a press release.

Eyman’s initiative was among six filed at the Secretary of State’s office Monday. Other initiatives filed Monday include:

  • Two other Eyman-sponsored  initiatives, including one that would restore $30 car tabs and eliminate cameras used for issuing tickets for speeding and red-light violations, and another that would outlaw such cameras unless approved by voters;
  • Two medical cannabis initiatives that would create legal protections for patients with prescriptions for medical marijuana;
  • An initiative that would show state support for a U.S. Constitutional amendment to prevent corporations from being considered citizens.

The full text of the initiatives filed Monday are available on the Secretary of State’s website.

Initiative sponsors have until July 3 to submit 246,372 valid signatures from registered Washington voters before they would appear statewide in the November general election.

New report about Initiative 522 addresses health concerns, cost of GMO food

By | October 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Academy of Sciences released a report Wednesday about Initiative 522 that was commissioned by a bipartisan group of state legislators.

Initiative 522 would require labels on genetically engineered food sold in Washington grocery stores. The controversial issue has generated record-breaking campaign donations, and is also the subject of a TVW documentary.

More than 90 percent of the corn, soybean and cotton grown in the United States are genetically modified. About 70 percent of the processed food sold in grocery stores — such as soups, cookies and chips — contain genetically modified ingredients.

The report found that GMO foods are “safe given the current state of knowledge and evidence,” with no documented long-term health effects in scientific studies.

However, it called for “continued surveillance of long-term health effects” of both GMO and non-GMO foods. It noted that some scientific authors are concerned that most of the studies done on GMO food have been “short-term studies, mostly nutritional studies, with limited toxicological information.”

It found that GMO foods are “substantially equivalent” to non-GMOs, except for “golden rice.” The rice is engineered to producer higher levels of beta-carotene to prevent vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries.

While the authors of the report do not provide a dollar figure, they believe that food prices will increase if the initiative passes.

“Mandatory labeling, especially at a state versus federal level, is likely to affect trade and impose higher costs on firms producing and selling products in Washington. These costs are likely to be passed on to the consumer resulting in higher food prices,” the report said.

The campaigns involved in the initiative have contradictory claims about food prices. The No on 522 campaign funded a study that says that the initiative could cost a family of four an additional $450 a year. The Yes on 522 campaign cites a study from Emory University that found there would be no increased cost, or a cost as low as $2.20 per person a year.

Thomas Marsh of Washington State University is the co-chair of the committee that wrote the Washington State Academy of Sciences report. Marsh said in a press release that “the greatest costs are not in the labeling itself, but in the segregation and demonstration of GM-free status.”

Marsh said that the cost estimate varies widely because there’s no “after the fact” data, since no other state requires labels. Costs related to regulatory oversight, lab analysis and litigation are also “imprecise or unknown,” the report said.

You can read the full 30-page report here. The Washington State Academy of Sciences is a group of scientists and engineers that provide independent analysis for public policy makers. A group of three Republican and three Democratic state legislators requested the report.

Categories: GMO, initiatives