July 5, 2012 in City

On ballots, expect single marijuana, marriage options

Voters’ initiative choices distilled
By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – Washington voters could face ballot measures this November on marijuana, same-sex marriage, charter schools and supermajorities for taxes. But they won’t face more than one on any of those topics.

Supporters of Initiative 1240, which would allow up to 40 charter schools in the state’s public systems, and Initiative 1183, the latest proposal to require two-thirds majorities for taxes in the Legislature, plan to turn in their signed petitions Friday morning, the final day to submit laws that can be passed directly by the people.

The sponsor of an initiative that would declare marriage to be only between one man and one woman said this week he doesn’t have even half the 242,000 signatures needed for Initiative 1192 and won’t be making the trip to Olympia.

Everett attorney Steven Pidgeon said supporters had petitions in churches throughout the state, but “we don’t have enough (signatures) to turn in.”

But voters will have a chance to vote yes or no on the same-sex marriage law passed by the Legislature through Referendum 74. Supporters of R-74 turned in their signatures a month ago, although the threshold for a referendum is half that of an initiative.

The failure of I-1192 to gather enough signatures prevents any confusion for voters on the November ballot. Foes of same-sex marriage would have had to vote yes on the initiative and no on the referendum, and supporters of the law would have had to do the reverse.

Pidgeon predicts a high-spending campaign from both sides on R-74 but said he won’t be back with another initiative on the subject next year if voters ratify same-sex marriage.

“What the people desire at the polls is what they should get politically,” he said. “If that’s what voters want, I’m going to respect that.”

Initiative 502, a ballot measure that would legalize use and possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults under certain circumstances and tax it, has also qualified for the ballot. A split among marijuana advocates over the rules in I-502 for testing intoxication led to the filing of six alternative proposals for ways to legalize the drug, but none of those are expected to make the ballot.

Supporters of Initiative 1240 believe they have “more than enough” signatures to qualify for the ballot, a campaign source said, although he said he was unable to provide an immediate estimate. The Coalition for Public Charter Schools has raised some $2.2 million, mostly from some of Washington’s heaviest hitters in business, like Bill Gates, who contributed $1 million, and members of Amazon’s Bezos family, who gave a total of $350,000.

The proposal allows school districts to set up as many as 40 nonprofit charter schools over the next five years, which would have the same academic standards as regular public schools but be exempt from some of the regulations. A similar proposal was introduced during this year’s legislative session with bipartisan fanfare, but it failed to get a vote in either house and was criticized by Gov. Chris Gregoire as an outdated solution to the state’s education problems.

And no signature-gathering season in Washington would be complete without at least one initiative from Tim Eyman, who regularly proposes limits on taxes, car tabs and red-light cameras. This year Eyman and his associates Mike and Jack Fagan, of Spokane, filed some two dozen proposed initiatives. About half of them restated, in different ways, the 2010 measure that again required a two-thirds majority in the Legislature to pass any tax increase.

That initiative passed with about 64 percent of the vote, but an initiative that voters pass can be amended by the Legislature with a simple majority after two years, so passing it again would make it difficult for lawmakers to change the supermajority requirement.The constitutionality of requiring a supermajority for taxes through a voter initiative is also before the state Supreme Court.

Eyman and company submitted 10 versions of the “son of 1053” – so many that at one point he was differentiating them versions A through D – but finally stuck with the first one he submitted, I-1185. Early this week he sent out appeals to his supporters for money and signatures but scheduled a time to turn in petitions on Friday morning.

“We’re still scrambling to collect signatures and will continue through the rest of the week, so we will be going until the final day,” he wrote in his campaign appeal, which he sent to reporters as a news release.

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