Washington voters said no to smoking in public places and new malpractice rules for doctors, and yes to a better watchdog on government.
But they seemed to be saying maybe to higher gasoline taxes, and maybe not to limits on some types of damages from medical malpractice claims.
In Spokane, county voters gave the green light to an extra tenth of a cent sales tax to pay for mental health services and to a switch to an all-mail voting system.
Spokane city voters were also approving a slight jump in their property taxes to maintain police and fire services and to open their branch libraries for more hours.
Incumbent Spokane City Council members Al French and Mary Verner were easily retained on the council, and political newcomer Nancy McLaughlin defeated Steve Corker’s bid to return to the council.
In the Spokane Valley, incumbents Steve Taylor and Mike DeVleming also beat challengers for second terms, and planning commissioner Bill Gothmann topped Ed Mertens for an open seat.
Early returns for statewide initiatives showed some wide swings as ballot totals poured in from around the state. A proposal to repeal a new gasoline tax was passing in most counties outside the Puget Sound, but was failing by nearly 2-to-1 in King County, the state’s most populous.
The first 3 cents of the 9.5-cent increase took effect in July, and the remainder would be phased in through 2008 if Initiative 912 fails. If it passes, all of the increase, including that first 3-cent bump, would be scrapped.
Voters also faced two separate proposals to change the state’s medical malpractice laws. Initiative 336 – which would remove the license of any doctor who lost three malpractice suits in 10 years and require insurance companies to hold public hearings on some rate increases – was failing in most counties.
But Initiative 330, which would limit some damages in malpractice cases, limit what lawyers could receive and the number of expert witnesses they could call – was see-sawing back and forth. It was failing in most Western Washington counties, and passing in most Eastern Washington counties, but with exceptions on both sides of the state.
Initiative 900, which calls for the state to conduct performance audits of government agencies – to see if they are accomplishing their stated goals as well as balancing their books – was also passing easily.
The most consistent pattern was for Initiative 901, dubbed the Clean Indoor Air Act, which makes the state’s public smoking limits even stricter. The proposal, which was passing throughout the state, bans smoking in restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and skating rinks – unless they are on tribal land. Smoking is also banned 25 feet from the entrances and windows of those buildings.
Also receiving strong support throughout the state was Senate Joint Resolution 8207, a constitutional amendment to expand judicial conduct commissions to include municipal court judges.