Eyman heads into the lion's den

The Associated Press
1/17/03 10:00 PM

OLYMPIA (AP) -- Initiative king Tim Eyman, newly the butt of an
initiative to have him declared a "horse's ass," on Friday made his
first official visit to the Legislature, where he's sometimes called
much worse.

Eyman often berates the Legislature and politicians, once storming
Olympia with pitchfork-wielding "peasants" to verbally jab "King Locke
and the royal knights." But he was respectful, mild-mannered and even
nervous as he made his debut as a citizen lobbyist.

Eyman, who has sponsored initiatives for the past six years, said he's
adding an Olympia lobbying aspect to his efforts to influence policy and
protect the initiative process. He met privately with lawmakers and
testified at the House State Government Committee on Friday, and said
he'll be back.

"This was a little coming-out party, if you will, and a chance to
interact with the (legislative) process," he told reporters.

Dressed in a suit and tie, the sometimes rowdy Eyman was the soul of
decorum. He said he had notified Chairwoman Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton,
that he was coming and that "I wasn't going to come down here and do a

What caught his attention was a little bill by Rep. Toby Nixon,
R-Kirkland, to allow initiative sponsors to use standard-sized paper for
their petitions. Right now they have to use oversized 11- by 14-inch
paper, and that usually involves spending thousands of dollars getting
petitions done by professional printers.

Eyman praised the simple change, which he said would make the initiative
process cheaper and handier for the average citizen. He quickly turned
his testimony into an appeal for lawmakers to keep their hands off the
initiative process -- unless, of course, they want to make it easier.

Eyman, fearless in front of the cameras and on the campaign trail, was
"incredibly nervous" when he took the witness chair.

"Since this is the first time, I ask you to be gentle," he told

"We'll be as gentle with you as you are with us," shot back Rep. Joe
McDermott, D-Seattle.

Mostly, the exchange was even-tempered. Eyman restrained his usual
rhetoric, and lawmakers didn't use the kind of anti-Eyman wrath they
often dish up in private.

Eyman's initiatives have included measures to reduce the cost of car
license tabs to $30 -- which cut state and local revenue by $750 million
a year -- property-tax limits and numerous efforts to require public
votes on taxes.

This year, he's running I-807, which would restore the spending limits
and tax supermajority votes of I-601 that passed in 1993.

Earlier this week, Gov. Gary Locke complained about "budgeting by
initiative." He didn't mention Eyman by name, but said state government
can't cope with all the tax cuts and spending mandates right now. He
has proposed suspending or amending three spending initiatives, none

Meanwhile, Eyman critic David Goldstein, a Seattle computer programmer
and technical writer, is pushing an initiative that says "The citizens
of the state of Washington do hereby proclaim that Tim Eyman is a
horse's ass." That was a line Eyman used on himself when he revealed
last year that he had taken campaign contributions as a salary fund.

Eyman said Friday he's still chortling over the initiative, even though
it does say that copies would be sent to his wife and mother.

"Like they don't already know," he quipped.

He said Goldstein is unwittingly helping him by giving him a huge jolt
of free publicity.

"The reality is, it's a rough and tumble business and you have to be
able to laugh," Eyman said in an interview.

In his legislative appearance, he acknowledged that lawmakers and
initiative sponsors have a built-in adversarial relationship.

"I know there is some chafing. There is that tension there," he said.

He said initiative foes have the Legislature's ear, and that he wanted
to begin giving the perspective of initiative backers. He said
lawmakers seldom try to open the initiative process, but often try to
water it down by regulation.

He flatly rejected the idea that the process is being overused.

"One cannot possibly argue that the initiative process is out of
control, when 99.99 percent of all decisions are made through
representative democracy at the state and local level -- and only a
minuscule number through the initiative process," Eyman said.

"The 200,000-signature hurdle will continue to, rightly, weed out the
ideas that are not serious," he said. "There is the ultimate safety net
of the voters themselves. If they think it's stupid, they're more than
willing to vote it down."

-- END --

I-807 Proposed Ballot Title: This measure would reestablish and clarify
state spending limits, emergency reserve fund requirements, and require
tax and fee increases to receive either two-thirds legislative approval
or majority voter approval at an election.

Voters Want More Choices
PO Box 18250
Spokane, WA 99228


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site