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Eye On Olympia

SEIU’s Initiative 1029: Uh-oh…

In 50 minutes, proponents of Initiative 1029 are scheduled to deliver thousands of petitions to the Secretary of State's office in Olympia. Presumably, they'll have enough signatures to get the measure -- which would mandate more training and background checks for some health workers -- on the ballot.

Meanwhile, however, the Community Care Coalition of Washington is rattling its legal sabers over a mistake on the petitions. Instead of saying that I-1029 is an initiative to the people, the petitions wrongly state that it's an initiative to the Legislature. While I suspect the vast majority of petition signers are unlikely to know the difference (or care), the coalition's attorneys argue otherwise, saying it's not a meaningless error.

"To ignore these basic and constitutional differences in the two forms of initiative would underrate the voters of this State and their understanding of the options for the exercise of direct democracy," write attorneys Kathleen Benedict and Narda Pierce.

The petitions are wrong, they write, and "it would be a dangerous precedent" to allow them to put the measure on the ballot.

"Voters are entitled to notice and clarity as they make their decisions on initiative petitions," they write, urging Secretary of State Sam Reed to reject the petitions.

Reed's election officials, who have said they consider the error a minor, harmless one, say they'll accept the petitions.

My guess: If foes have the cash, this is probably headed straight to court.

As for measure's backers, they've largely been maintaining radio silence in the past few days as word of the error spread. The only notice I and other Olympia reporters have received about the scheduled turn-in of petitions has come from the Secretary of State's office. And a spokesman for the group said yesterday that they don't plan a news conference at the turn-in.

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