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Wednesday, August 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Spin Control: Eyman and others fail to qualify voter initiatives

Initiative activist Tim Eyman appears in Thurston County Superior Court, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Olympia. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Initiative activist Tim Eyman appears in Thurston County Superior Court, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Olympia. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Tim Eyman will have one familiar initiative on the November ballot that deals with $30 car tabs, but could not muster the signatures to get a second measure that would end new taxes the Legislature passes after a year unless voters ratify them.

The $30 tabs measure was an initiative to the Legislature, which essentially ignored it, so it goes to voters. Initiative 1648, or “Term Limits for Taxes,” had to turn in almost 260,000 valid, unduplicated signatures from registered voters by end of business Friday.

It didn’t, despite Eyman teasing the media with a final day pickup drive and a meeting at the secretary of state’s office that collects petitions. As 5 p.m. approached, he was forced to admit they had “just shy of 200,000.”

Afterward, he acknowledged – as a practitioner of the initiative business – a campaign that started barely six weeks before the deadline, with no money to pay signature gatherers, had little to no chance of success. What was giving him hope, Eyman said, was the energy of new allies from the Liberty State organization, which started a Facebook page that quickly got some 10,500 followers.

Mike McKee, of the Liberty State organization, didn’t see anything ironic about a group that wants to secede from Washington getting so involved with shaping Washington law.

“We’re not Liberty State yet and until we are, we have to do something to control Olympia,” McKee, of Quincy, said. If they can’t convince the Legislature to splitting the state at the Cascades – and remember, the resolutions to do that haven’t even had a committee hearing, let alone a vote – an initiative could be an option in the future, although not the near future, he said.

“There’s many, many options,” McKee said. “There’s no plans to launch anything Liberty State-wise.”

Eyman is the most prolific initiative sponsor, with 11 of the 25 numbered ballot measures filed this year, but he only pushed for I-1648. Like most years, the subjects chosen by sponsors varied widely and like most years the execution for getting about 260,000 valid, unrepeated signatures was lacking.

Here are some non-Eyman initiatives that – you can decide whether for better or worse – won’t be going to voters this November for a lack of signatures.

Taxes. While Eyman has made his living coming up with anti-tax measures, he’s a piker compared to a Lacey man who filed an initiative to repeal all the sales, business and occupation, cigarette, gasoline, real estate and marijuana taxes, and just about every other tax in the state. Didn’t say how to replace them so state and local government could run. But initiative writers often are big picture people who let others worry about details.

Marijuana. Ever since voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, initiative writers have been trying to rewrite the law. A Tukwila man wanted to criminalize the production and sale of marijuana or hemp in residential zones, seize the property involved and hand out life sentences if the proceeds go to terror organizations or to landlords who didn’t properly screen their tenants.

Special education. A Bellevue man had an initiative to change the formula the state uses to pay for special education students in public schools, which was something the Legislature eventually hammered out in the 2019 session. One problem, it called for a higher payment in the 2019-20 school year, which starts in September, and the initiative wouldn’t have been on the ballot until November.

Fish and Wildlife. A Vancouver man wanted to abolish the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and require Fish and Wildlife commissioners to be elected statewide. He also wanted to get rid of “fly-fishing only” restrictions on streams, but let that one expire without a formal petition.

Invasive species. A Kent woman, on the other hand, wanted to give more power to the Department of Agriculture to stop invasive species from entering the state. It would give the Washington Invasive Species Council (pat yourself on the back if you knew the state had one) more power and a bigger budget.

Reining in government. A Tenino man wanted to set up a process to prevent “betrayal of Washington sovereign individual’s legal rights,” allowing any voter to challenge the constitutionality of a law or the action of a government official by filing a lawsuit that would be heard within 90 days. The action would get a jury trial, and a simple majority would decide.

Ending a toll. A Mukilteo man wanted to end the toll on the Interstate 405 express lanes, at least for the stretch north of Bellevue. Tolls are very unpopular in Pugetopolis, but it’s possible that if he tried to get signatures up and down the corridor, local residents would have said, “What about the toll lane I use?” East of the Cascades, he would have heard, “Toll lanes? You have toll lanes? We don’t have toll lanes. Not my problem.”

None of these will be on the ballot, but if you want to encourage sponsors to try again next year, you can get their contact information on the secretary of state’s initiatives webpage.

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