Final countdown begins for Wash. initiative campaigns
June 26, 2004

Associated Press
King 5 News

OLYMPIA, Wash. - If you plan to attend a baseball game, shop at the mall or otherwise leave your home this weekend, be prepared to meet a crowd of initiative signature-gatherers.

Friday is the deadline for initiative sponsors to turn in signatures to the secretary of state. Over the next week, proponents of everything from tax cuts to smoking bans will make their final push for the 197,734 valid voter signatures needed to get on the fall ballot.

Most of the three dozen proposed initiatives won't make it.

The odds-on favorite to make the ballot is Initiative 884, which would increase the sales tax by 1 percent to improve education.

Supporters raised more money than any other campaign, more than $430,000 by the end of last month.

I-884 is one of five initiative campaigns that made appointments to turn in signatures at the secretary of state's office next week -- not a guarantee of success, but a good indicator of the campaign leaders' confidence.

The sponsors of Initiative 872, which would create a primary system that doesn't force people to choose a party, have scheduled their appointment for Tuesday afternoon. The Washington Grange-sponsored initiative had more than $290,000 in the bank at the start of June.

Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman has scheduled a visit to the secretary of state on Friday to hand over signatures for both his initiatives.

Eyman's I-892 would expand gambling and use the tax revenue to lower property taxes. That campaign, supported by non-tribal casinos, raised more than $300,000 by the end of May. I-864, which would lower local property taxes, had $233,000 at the end of May.

Supporters of I-890, which would ban smoking in all public, indoor places, plan to drop off signatures on Friday. The campaign has raised about $133,000.

As the deadline looms, even the sponsors of the most popular initiatives aren't overconfident.

"It's like surfing on tsunami," said Don Whiting, campaign adviser for I-872, the primary initiative. "We're reasonably confident ... we won't absolutely know until next week." At the Seattle headquarters of the Education Trust Fund initiative campaign, communications director Natalie Reber said she pictures signed petitions lying on kitchen tables -- a haunting vision for initiative sponsors.

"If we get every person that has a signature out there to send it in to us, there's no question it will get on the ballot," she said.

Optimism mixed freely with nervousness for Scott Peterson, spokesman for I-890, the smoking ban.

"If everything goes just right, we'll make it," he said.

"It's going to be tight." Other initiatives are still gathering signatures, but their prospects for making the ballot appear dim.

Initiative 895 would allow insurers to offer "bare bones" health insurance coverage with minimal benefits. Sponsor Carolyn Logue, Washington state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said stacks of signed petitions continue to arrive in the mail.

However, the I-895 campaign raised only about $36,000. The opposition group "Citizens Against 895" raised about $10,000 more than that, which is not a good sign for getting your measure on the ballot.

The buzz is bad for Initiative 891, an alternative smoking ban supported by restaurants and casinos, though sponsors say they're still working on gathering signed petitions.

The sponsors of I-861, a one-strike law for violent sex crimes, and I-894, "Trust and Transit," which would limit the scope of transit projects, did not return calls seeking comment. Neither is expected to make the ballot.

One of the most successful initiatives, measured by fund-raising, is already out of the running. Initiative 883, which would have focused transportation funding on roads, enjoyed hearty support from Kemper Freeman Jr., owner of the Bellevue Square shopping center. The campaign raised more than $350,000, but its sponsors slammed on the brakes earlier this month, saying the timing wasn't right.

One initiative is already guaranteed a spot on the ballot: I-297, which would block the federal government from sending radioactive waste from other states to Hanford until all the existing waste at the site is cleaned up. It was an initiative to the Legislature, and the Legislature didn't act on it, which means it automatically gets a public vote.

Referendum 55 has also earned a spot on the November ballot. The referendum will ask voters to decide whether Washington should have charter schools. It qualified for the ballot this week.



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