Initiative backers tout 2002-style homemade legislation

By DAVID AMMONS The Associated Press
4/15/02 10:55 PM

OLYMPIA (AP) -- Initiative backers are hawking several dozen ballot
measures, dealing with everything from crime and credit card interest to
road taxes and a requirement that all candidates take the 10th grade
achievement test.

One citizen would even like to change the state's name from Washington to

Thus far, all but one of the initiative efforts are mom-and-pop
operations.  The exception: Tim Eyman's Permanent Offense committee has
begun paying solicitors to hit the streets with clipboards.

Backers have until July 5 to collect 197,734 valid signatures of registered
voters.  Sponsors find it very difficult to qualify unless they have
well-heeled backers and can use paid signature-gathering.  Of the 66
initiatives filed in 2000 and 2001, for instance, just nine qualified for a
place on the ballot and most used paid solicitors.  Seven of those measures

If sufficient signatures are gathered, the new initiatives will appear on
the November ballot.

The initiative process, which allows average citizens and groups to try
their hand at writing state laws, has been criticized in recent years for
hemming in the Legislature by cutting revenue while mandating billions in
new spending.

Eyman's confession in February that he had secretly converted some campaign
contributions into a salary fund for himself spurred the Legislature to
consider restrictions.  The only change adopted this year was a requirement
for the state budget office to do a fiscal analysis that would be included
the Voters' Pamphlet write-up on each initiative.

One new initiative, however, warns legislators to keep their hands off the
process.  Initiative 781 says any lawmaker who attempts to overturn or
weaken an initiative would be expelled from office, put in the state
penitentiary for five years and barred from politics for life.

However, that's probably more of a "message to Olympia" than a legal
threat.  The state Constitution, which cannot be amended by initiative,
says lawmakers can amend or repeal an initiative within two years of its
passage with two-thirds votes in both houses, and by simply majority after
that.  This year, for instance, the Senate voted to repeal anti-trapping
Initiative 713; the count was a few votes short in the House.

This year's initiatives also include:

--TRANSPORTATION TAXES.  Eyman's I-776 would roll back car tab fees to $30
a year for vehicles, motorcycles and motor homes.  This would eliminate
some of the taxes that may for mass transit in central Puget Sound.

I-785 would require that all transportation taxes and tolls be spent on
transportation projects and mass transit in the county where they are

I-787 extends the sales tax to gasoline, with revenue earmarked for public

--EDUCATION.  I-780 would require candidates for state and local office to
take the 10th grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning.  Test scores
would be made public, including a notation in the Voters' Pamphlet.

I-779 would award merit pay to teachers, based on parents' ratings.

I-789 would allow school principals to develop and manage a schoolhouse
budget, subject to school board approval and state audit.

--TAX POLICY.  I-782 says 95 percent of all state and local taxes should be
paid by the individuals and corporations that possess 95 percent of the
state's wealth.  A couple making less than about $100,000 a year would pay
no tax.  The attorney general says this measure is flawed, because it has
no enacting clause.

I-791 would impose state spending limits stronger than the ones voters
approved in 1993 with Initiative 601.  Tax increases would require a
legislative supermajority or a vote of the people.

--CAMPAIGN FINANCE.  I-783 says the only legal campaign contributions would
be ones from individuals who are able to vote for the candidate or ballot
measure.  This would rule out money from unions, business, political action
committees and parties, as well as individuals from outside the state or

--CRIME.  I-784 would allow property forfeiture only after a person is
convicted of a drug crime.  I-792 would stiffen the penalties for vehicular
assault while intoxicated or high on drugs.

--CREDIT CARDS.  I-788 would impose a 12 percent annual interest limit on
credit card balances.

--AND MORE.  I-786 says all tribal rights would be "shared equally and in
common with the citizens of Washington state." I-777 bars employers from
either demanding or forbidding workers to belong to a union or to pay union
representation costs.  I-790 establishes a new board to oversee the Law
Enforcement and Fire Fighters' Plan 2 pension.

Numbers haven't been assigned yet, but other initiatives have been filed,
including ones to abolish the death penalty, tie legislative salaries to
homecare workers' pay and to rename the state Cascadia.

More information is available on the secretary of state's Web site,
including contacts, ballot titles, summaries and full text.


On the Net:

Secretary of State:

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