With less than a week to gather signatures, only two initiatives look likely to get on the November ballot.
Initiative proponents must obtain 181,000 valid signatures by July 7 to qualify.
So far, only an initiative to expand Indian gambling and a measure to outlaw gillnetting and trolling are expected to make it.
In both cases, money talked. Initiative backers used paid signature gatherers and professional consultants.
Meanwhile, the all-volunteer effort behind a property tax-cut measure, Initiative 650, is struggling.
Supporters raised only about $800, state records show. And the signature gathering campaign, while active in Spokane, has been largely invisible west of the Cascades.
Larry Hartley of Spokane, who helped coordinate the drive on the East Side of the state, said paid signature gatherers have generated so much cynicism that volunteers like himself have a hard time getting voters’ attention.
“People would look at me and say ‘How much are you getting paid?’ and keep right on walking, shaking their heads,” he said.
Initiative 650 has been popular in Spokane, where rocketing assessments focused voter attention on property taxes. Hartley said nearly 300 volunteers are circulating petitions in Eastern Washington.
The measure would roll back property values to 1993 levels, and cap all increases at 2 percent per year.
It applies to both residential and commercial property, and would provide a tax exemption for primary residences. Hartley said he’s not giving up. “We are going to be so close. I think it will come right down to the wire.”
Initiative 640, the Save our Sealife Initiative, is expected to qualify for the ballot, said Sherry Bockwinkel, campaign chairman.
Bockwinkel said the initiative will rebuild fish runs hammered by indiscriminate gear such as gillnets, which catch and kill everything they snare.
The initiative would effectively outlaw gillnetting and trolling by requiring all fishermen to use gear that leaves 85 percent of their by-catch live and marketable.
By-catch are fish and other creatures unintentionally caught while fishing for a desired species.
Initiative opponents said the measure blames commercial fishing for depleted fish stocks, when the problem is more complex.
To restore salmon runs, habitat must be preserved and restored and fish-killing dams modified, said Robert Harkins, an opposition consultant.
Harkins hooted at a $30,000 campaign contribution to I-640 by the Columbia River Alliance, a consortium of agribusiness, aluminum companies and irrigators.
“What an irony. Here you have big businesses asking for more regulation that will kill small, family-owned fishing businesses, and at the same time get rid of one of the very groups pushing hardest for salmon habitat restoration: commercial fishers,” he said.
Bruce Lovelin of the Alliance said the contribution merely recognizes that dams are only part of the salmon restoration puzzle.
So far the big-money initiative is I-651, the Indian gambling measure.
The Spokane and Puyallup tribes have put more than $400,000 into the initiative already to pay signature gatherers and manage the campaign.
At stake is an expansion of Indian gambling worth $100 million a year to the Puyallups alone, said Mike Turnipseed, a Puyallup Tribal Council member.
The initiative would legalize slot machines, video poker, and any other type of gambling by the tribes, and limit the state’s ability to regulate the casinos.
It also would require the state to grant up to 48 hours notice before inspecting a casino’s books or office.
Voters would get 10 percent of gambling profits through direct payments by the tribes, which initiative critics dismissed as an outright bribe.
“We’re just offering to share the resource,” countered Russell La Fountaine, spokesman for the I-651 campaign. “It’s a business proposition.”
Opponents said the measure would remove all controls on Indian gambling and open the door to organized crime.
The three tribes pushing the measure say the issue is one of sovereignty. The state doesn’t have the right to tell tribes what to do on their own land, or inside their casinos, La Fountaine said.
Opponents, led by non-profit charities, said the measure is a threat to groups that raise most of their funds through bingo.
Few gamblers are going to bother with bingo if they can get full-blown gambling up the road, predicted Don Kaufman of Spokane, chairman of the Committee Against Unrestricted Gambling, organized to defeat I-651.
Petitions also are being circulated for Referendum 48, which would put a property rights measure to the voters in November.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: REFERENDUM Proponents of Referendum 48 have until July 21 to gather signatures. If they fail, the property rights measure becomes law. It requires taxpayers to pay property owners for any loss in their property value caused by regulations adopted for public benefit. The initiative makes taxpayers foot the bill for traffic studies, maps and other studies required to review development projects. It also would require a comprehensive economic analysis, conducted at taxpayers’ expense, of any new regulation.