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Tuesday, February 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Measures passing on animal protection, tax restrictions

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 3, 2015

Washington voters overwhelmingly supported a new law to protect endangered animals, and seemed likely to pass by a much smaller margin another attempt to force the Legislature to approve tax increases by a supermajority.

Initiative 1401, dubbed the Save Animals Facing Extinction measure, was approved by 70 percent of the ballots counted Tuesday night, prompting supporters to declare it a clear message that states can help protect endangered animals around the world.

“Today’s victory is a step forward in the race against extinction,” Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist who contributed nearly $1.9 million to the campaign, said in a news release.

Initiative 1366, the latest in a string of ballot measures devised by Tim Eyman to require the Legislature to pass tax increases with two-thirds majorities, had support from about 54 percent of the ballots counted and a cushion of more than 70,000 votes. It was failing in only four counties, but one of those was the state’s most populous, King County.

Voters have approved requiring supermajorities to raise taxes five times over the past two decades, but always through an initiative. In 2013, the state Supreme Court said such a change in the way the state’s founders set up Washington requires a constitutional amendment. But an amendment must start with the Legislature. So I-1366 gives the Legislature a choice, requiring a 1 percent cut in the state sales tax if the Legislature doesn’t pass the amendment included in the initiative by mid-April.

Critics said such a mandate would itself be unconstitutional, but the courts refused to block I-1366 from the ballot, giving voters a chance to have their say. It’s likely headed back to the Supreme Court if the lead holds up.

I-1401 adds state penalties to cases of buying and selling products from about a dozen threatened or endangered animals from around the world, including elephants and rhinos. Among the most common products covered would be ivory, which supporters say is the motivation of poaching that is devastating elephant herds in Africa.

In contrast to the well-financed SAFE campaign, opponents in the the Legal Ivory Rights Coalition Committee planned to spend no more than $5,000 total and accept no more than $500 from any donor. They argued the measure isn’t needed because federal law already has penalties for selling imported poached products and would really just make it difficult to sell items like ivory jewelry that were purchased legally.

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