From gay rights to gun rights, health insurance reform and medical use of marijuana, Washington voters are likely to face a lively ballot full of initiatives in November.
Proponents of five measures turned in enough signatures to the secretary of state’s office by Thursday’s deadline to probably qualify for the ballot.
Signatures must still be reviewed to certify at least 179,248 registered voters signed petitions for each measure.
All five campaigns used paid signature gatherers to some degree.
The measures cover hot-button issues, many of which the Legislature has dodged for years.
Civil rights advocates have repeatedly tried to pass a gay rights law in Olympia. This year, advocates have taken their plea to the people with Initiative 677 to ban discrimination against gays in the workplace. It does not require employers to provide health benefits for domestic partners.
Laurie Jinkins, president of I-667 backers Hands Off Washington in Seattle, said about 225,000 signatures were gathered.
“Most people think job discrimination is wrong,” Jinkins said. “This is an issue that is perfect for the ballot because the people are way ahead of the Legislature.”
Cathy Mickels, president of the Eagle Forum of Washington, a conservative group, predicted a fight over the initiative.
“I would rather protect the right of someone to fire me if they don’t like something about me. That’s America. I want to protect that person’s right as much as my right.
“We are living in a time when people are saying they want less government and infringement in people’s lives. This will require more regulations. The lawyers are going to come out ahead on this one.”
Backers of a gun safety initiative are facing well-organized opposition to I-676, which would require the sale of a trigger lock with any handgun.
The measure also requires handgun users to pass an eight-hour gun safety instruction course to legally possess or buy a handgun.
Members of the military, law enforcement and people with previous firearms safety experience may bypass the course by passing a test.
Supporters turned in more than 237,000 signatures Thursday, ensuring a heated battle with gun rights groups.
The measure has attracted some high-visibility support, including a $35,000 contribution from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda.
“The main intent behind this initiative is to reduce accidental deaths of children in this state,” said Bruce Gryniewski, executive director of Washington Cease-fire, which backs the initiative.
Joe Waldron of Bellevue is heading a political action committee organized to defeat the measure, backed by the National Rifle Association and Citizens for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, two national gun rights groups.
Three state gun rights groups have also linked up with the PAC, called Washington Citizens Against Regulatory Excess.
“This goes too far,” Waldron said of the initiative, which he called “the first step toward confiscation.”
More innocent people would be killed than saved by a requirement to put trigger locks on handguns, Waldron said, because they would not be able to shoot instantly if threatened by violence.
Another big-bucks battle is brewing between insurers and backers of I-673, which would allow patients to choose their doctors, instead of insurers choosing for them.
That would be a big change from current law, which allows insurers to restrict coverage to services obtained from a roster of providers they select.
Under the initiative, patients could see any provider of their choice and still receive full coverage.
Teresa Wippel, campaign manager, said the initiative would be a referendum on managed care. “People are tired of being told what doctor to go to by some bureaucrat.”
Insurers are expected to fight the measure, claiming it would drive up costs.
Backers collected about 235,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot, Wippel said.
Another health care battle will be waged over I-685, which would allow doctors to advise patients on the use of illegal drugs to control pain and other symptoms of serious illnesses.
Doctors would not be able to prescribe drugs such as marijuana for patients, who would still have to obtain and use them illegally.
The initiative would allow judges to order treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. Criminals who commit a violent offense while under the influence of drugs would be made ineligible for parole.
The state would also be required to spend $3 million a year on a commission intended to teach parents how to talk to their kids about drug use.
So far nearly all of the more than $250,000 raised to put I-685 on the ballot has come from the owner of a private Arizona school, Phoenix University, and an Ohio insurance executive.
Campaign manager Madeline Johnson said both men are philanthropists with an interest in reforming drug policy.
Another measure, I-678, would allow dental hygienists to clean patients’ teeth, apply dental sealant and take tooth X-rays without a dentist’s supervision.
About 250,000 signatures were collected to put the measure on the ballot, said Cathy Allen, a spokeswoman for the campaign.
The initiative would give patients more choice of dental care providers and allow access to care at lower cost, while keeping preventive dental care as safe as ever, Allen said. Dentists, who typically have one of the best-funded PACs in the state, have opposed similar legislation in Olympia for 18 years. “We expect to be out spent by the dentists 10 to 1,” Allen said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Ballot bound Issues likely to make November’s state ballot are: Gay rights: I-677 would prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. Gun safety: I-676 would require all handguns sold or transferred in the state to be equipped with a trigger lock. Also requires all owners to pass a safety exam. Health care: I-673 would allow patients to choose their doctor and pharmacist without a reduction in coverage. Medical marijuana: I-685 would allow doctors to advise patients about the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs to relieve symptoms. Dental hygienists: I-678 would allow dental hygienists to clean teeth and provide other preventive dental care without dentists’ supervision. Source: Office of the Secretary of State.
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