Editor’s Note: I authored this post last week but am reposting it for your enjoyment as we head into the final weekend of the 2015 general election.
This morning, I appeared for the second time this week on well-known conservative John Carlson’s program, The Commute with Carlson, to debate I‑1366 with Carlson and Pierce County Councilmember Dan Roach (who are both Tim Eyman fans).
During my remarks on the program, I emphasized that I‑1366 would cause serious long term damage to our state, undermining our plan of government and setting a bad precedent that other players in state politics might try to copy.
I‑1366 is a malicious attempt by Eyman to coerce the Washington State Legislature into doing his will. After the Supreme Court thwarted his previous attempts to subvert Article II, Section 22 with Initiatives 960, 1053, and 1185 two years ago, Tim Eyman turned his attention to trying to sabotage that all-important majority vote provision of our Constitution through a constitutional amendment.
But there’s something that’s blocking Eyman from simply being able to force us all to vote on the amendment he wants using his wealthy benefactors’ money.
And that is another critically important provision of our state Constitution… Article XXIII, which says that all constitutional amendments have to originate in the Legislature and receive a two-thirds vote of each house to pass before being submitted to the people for ratification at a subsequent general election.
See, unlike in Oregon and California and a few other states, in Washington, only the Legislature has the power to propose constitutional amendments. The people don’t. That is the way our founders wanted it. The people have final say over any amendment, but all amendments have to originate in the Legislature.
Since Tim Eyman is not an elected legislator, and has never had the courage to run for office, he doesn’t have the power to propose an amendment. And even if he did, he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. Two-thirds is, after all, a high bar.
And so Eyman has resorted to blackmail. Coercion. Extortion. Call it what you like, I‑1366 is intended to force elected representatives like NPI’s Vice President and Secretary Gael Tarleton (one of our ninety-eight state representatives) into voting against their values, and against our state’s values. That’s wrong.
I‑1366 is not a revote on the idea of having a two-thirds vote threshold for raising revenue. As mentioned, the Supreme Court has already said that’s unconstitutional. This initiative is an attempt to forcibly invoke the constitutional amendment process by a specific date, which is totally beyond the scope of the initiative power.
Passage of I‑1366 would set a terrible precedent. To say that the door would be open to future mischief making would be an understatement.
When I appeared on John’s show, I told him, “I’d like your listeners to imagine this morning what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot”.
“Imagine,” I said, “that next year, a consortium of left wing groups decides to copy a page out of the Eyman playbook and demand the Constitution be changed to say that it should take a two-thirds vote to lower our state’s minimum wage or to reduce benefits guaranteed to public workers by contracts with unions.”
“The minimum wage could still be raised by majority vote, but not lowered… that would permanently require a two-thirds vote. The minimum wage, by the way, is very popular with voters. They’ve voted for it over and over.”
“Passage of an amendment would itself require a two-thirds vote, of course. Impossible without Republican support. Now imagine, that in an attempt to secure the votes of Eastern Washington Republicans, left wing groups take a militant approach and qualify an initiative that says to those Eastern Washington Republicans, If you don’t adopt the particular amendment we want by this particular date, the state budget will be altered to eliminate funding for projects in your districts in Eastern Washington. You can either adopt the amendment or you and your constituents will suffer the consequences.”
“Wouldn’t you agree that sounds ridiculous? Outrageous? Now you know how opponents of I‑1366 feel. This is a blatant attempt to blackmail legislators who believe that majority rule should apply to passage of all bills and budgets into voting against their values to change the Constitution. It’s bad public policy.”
I didn’t expect to change many minds by going on Carlson’s show, but I hope I at least gave his listeners something to think about.
I think Pope Francis is correct: we reach better decisions when we operate by the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
If Tim Eyman is successful with I‑1366, the militant tactics of hostage taking could become a fixture of Washington State politics (as they have in national politics).
That would be awful.
Tim Eyman has been called a conservative political activist many times — that’s how his Wikipedia entry describes him, for instance. But given that Eyman doesn’t seem to want to conserve anything, not even the plan of government our founders gave us all the way back in 1889, that doesn’t seem like an appropriate label for him. A more accurate descriptor would be radical right wing purveyor of bad ideas.
In this campaign, I have heard from real conservatives who cherish the Constitution that has been handed down to us, and agree that our system of representative government should be defended. I applaud these true conservatives for helping participate in the noble and worthy cause of defeating this awful initiative.
The team at NPI and I emphatically believe majority rule is good for everybody. We welcome those conservatives and Republicans who feel likewise, and we are proud to campaign along with them to protect Washington from the harm of I‑1366.
Anyone who has watched the NO on I‑1366 campaign take shape over the past few months can see that it is broad, deep, and bipartisan. This coalition is open to all who believe in the values that Washington was founded upon, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, independents, or supporters of minor parties.
NO on I‑1366’s diverse roster also includes organizations from the labor community, business community, environmental community, and education community, from the Washington Roundtable and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to the state PTA, AARP Washington, League of Women Voters, Council of Fire Fighters, and the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO… as well as widely-respected groups like NAMI Washington and the Children’s Alliance.
We are all standing together to ensure that Washington State moves forward, not backwards. We ask you to join with us in rejecting this false choice that Tim Eyman has manufactured as the latest bad idea to come out of his initiative factory.
By November 3rd, please remember to return your ballot and vote NO on I‑1366.