November 9, 2011 in City

Voters leave no doubt with liquor initiative

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Washington voters said mostly yes Tuesday night. Yes to ending the state monopoly on wholesale and retail liquor sales after the most expensive initiative campaign in state history.

Yes to three other measures, including tougher training standards and criminal background checks for people who take care of the elderly and the disabled in their homes.

They may have only turned down tougher restrictions on toll roads and toll bridges; that proposal was trailing by 21,000 votes out of more than 1 million counted and appeared headed for defeat after losing in some of the state’s most populous counties, where those projects are planned.

Spokane voters, meanwhile, were mostly saying no.

Emphatically no to a road-related measure in the city of Spokane Valley to turn the one-way couplet on Sprague and Appleway back into two-way streets, and a $2.1 million bond levy to pay for it. In Tuesday night’s only vote count in Spokane County, the Valley proposition was being crushed by about 4-to-1.

Definitely no to a countywide plan to raise property taxes to pay for a new regional animal shelter.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke, who shepherded the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service proposal through two years of development, said the rejection of the County Measure 1 tax levy for a new animal shelter was “disappointing but understandable in this economy.”

“We’ll go back and develop another alternative,” but it’s “tough to say” when that might occur, he said.

And maybe no – although the margin is extremely thin – to Spokane City Proposition 1, also known as the Community Bill of Rights. It was trailing by 115 votes after Tuesday night’s count, a surprising reversal from the fate of a more extensive proposal two years ago that also dealt with neighborhood rights, worker rights and environmental protection and was soundly defeated.

“We went from getting cremated (in 2009) to being down 115 votes. We’re pretty ecstatic,” Kai Huschke of Envision Spokane, the proposal’s sponsor, said. He wasn’t sure if public sentiment had shifted or if Occupy Wall Street protests had made voters more receptive to the idea. “You want to say so, but I don’t know if people have made that leap.”

Here’s a roundup of the state ballot measures:

I-1183

The third proposal in two years to end the state’s control of wholesale and retail liquor sales set a series of records: ost expensive race overall. Most expensive campaign in support of an initiative. Most expensive campaign to oppose an initiative. Largest single contribution to an initiative campaign, $9.8 million, by Costco, last month.

Although both sides accused the other of trying to buy the election at the end, much of the campaign involved dueling firefighters and police officers warning that to end the state monopoly on liquor sales would lead to increases in alcohol abuse and drunken driving accidents, or that it would provide more money for enforcement and better training for store clerks.

I-1125

Tim Eyman and Spokane residents Mike and Jack Fagan filed 26 different initiatives this year, but the one they brought to the ballot involved limits on the way tolls could be placed on roads and bridges by the state. The proposal would have required tolls to be uniform around the clock and not raised at rush hour or lowered at slow times; required money from the toll only be used to pay off the project and not levied on other roads or bridges to pay off a new project; and required the Legislature, not a state board, to set the tolls.

Opponents said that no legislature in the country sets tolls, variable tolling is a standard device for current projects and that placing tolls on nearby alternate routes that motorists might use to avoid a toll road or bridge spread the cost more fairly.

I-1163

For the second time in three years, voters approved higher training standards and criminal background checks for health care workers. The proposal calls for raising training standards from 35 hours to 75 hours by 2014.

Supporters and opponents disagreed on costs, a key point with the state facing ongoing budget problems. With $14 million available from federal programs, the state would only spend about $18 million in the current biennium ending June 30, 2013, supporters said.

That federal money might not materialize, and even if it does, it comes from taxpayers, opponents countered.

SJR 8205

Over the decades, the residency requirements for voting in Washington changed through new state and federal laws and court decisions. In one spot, the state Constitution said a voter had to be a resident for 60 days, in another it said 30. This makes clear that 30 days, a standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court for voting in a presidential election, is also the standard in Washington.

It passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and had no campaign opposition.

SJR 8206

This expands the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” technically known as the budget stabilization account, by requiring more money to be deposited when the state has “extraordinary revenue growth” in one biennium compared to the previous 10 years. It sets up a formula to define that growth, and requires the Legislature to three-fourths of the money into the account.


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