Petitions for I-1125
Three petitions for Tim Eyman's Initiative 1125 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Today, the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives took a his­toric step towards ensur­ing that the peo­ple’s ini­tia­tive pow­er can­not be abused to ped­dle destruc­tive schemes that would gut essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices while hid­ing their costs. By a vote of 54–44, the House vot­ed to pass HB 1876, prime spon­sored by Mia Gregerson, which is one of NPI’s pri­or­i­ty bills for 2022.

HB 1876 requires fis­cal impact dis­clo­sures for bal­lot mea­sures that “repeal, levy, or mod­i­fy any tax or fee and have a fis­cal impact state­ment that shows that adop­tion of the mea­sure would cause a net change in state revenue.”

These dis­clo­sures would appear on vot­ers’ bal­lots as adden­da to the bal­lot titles (the title is the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the mea­sure on the actu­al bal­lot), ensur­ing that vot­ers are informed of what an ini­tia­tive would do to Wash­ing­ton’s finances if adopt­ed. Here’s an exam­ple of how this might work in prac­tice, using Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976 from three years ago as a test case.

Imag­ine if vot­ers had seen the title on the right instead of the one on the left.

Actu­al Bal­lot Title From 2019Hypo­thet­i­cal Bal­lot Title

Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure No. 976 con­cerns motor vehi­cle tax­es and fees.

This mea­sure would repeal, reduce, or remove author­i­ty to impose cer­tain vehi­cle tax­es and fees; lim­it annu­al motor-vehi­cle-license fees to $30, except vot­er-approved charges; and base vehi­cle tax­es on Kel­ley Blue Book value.

Should this mea­sure be enact­ed into law?

Yes [ ]
No [ ]

Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure No. 976 con­cerns trans­porta­tion funding.

This mea­sure would elim­i­nate sev­er­al motor vehi­cle fees and sales tax­es sup­port­ing state and local trans­porta­tion improve­ments. Vehi­cle fees would be lim­it­ed to $43.25 and based on Kel­ley Blue Book value.

This mea­sure would decrease fund­ing for mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion projects, fer­ries, and the Wash­ing­ton State Patrol.

Should this mea­sure be enact­ed into law?

Yes [ ]
No [ ]

The high­light­ed por­tion is the new aspect of the bal­lot title that HB 1876 would require. The pub­lic invest­ment impact dis­clo­sures would all uti­lize the for­mat This mea­sure would (increase or decrease) fund­ing for (descrip­tion of ser­vices)

The bill is enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­port­ed by OneAm­er­i­ca, AARP Wash­ing­ton, the League of Women Vot­ers of Wash­ing­ton, the City of Seat­tle, King Coun­ty, and the Allied Dai­ly News­pa­pers of Wash­ing­ton in addi­tion to NPI.

The bill is fierce­ly opposed by Tim Eyman and his asso­ciates, who would like to get back to run­ning decep­tive cons against the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State just as soon as they pos­si­bly can. Because HB 1876 would require hon­esty about fis­cal impacts in the bal­lot title, it would be hard­er for Eyman to ped­dle his false­hoods to vot­ers. He knows that and he real­ly, real­ly, real­ly does­n’t like that.

NPI has long cham­pi­oned ini­tia­tive reforms in the Leg­is­la­ture to ensure that vot­ers have truth­ful, accu­rate infor­ma­tion with which to make deci­sions when they cast a bal­lot, but leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship in the House has pre­vi­ous­ly declined to bring any of the ideas that the State Gov­ern­ment & Trib­al Rela­tions Com­mit­tee has endorsed out of the Rules Com­mit­tee and to the floor for debate.

Today, that changed. The full House final­ly took up a mean­ing­ful ini­tia­tive reform bill and then passed it. We are elat­ed, and we thank House Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship and all mem­bers who vot­ed yea for the pas­sage of HB 1876. This is tru­ly a huge win for Wash­ing­ton vot­ers that deserves to be celebrated.

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
HB 1876
Bal­lot measures/impact discl
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 54; Nays: 44

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Bate­man, Berg, Bergquist, Berry, Bronoske, Callan, Chap­man, Chopp, Cody, Davis, Dolan, Don­aghy, Duerr, Enten­man, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Frame, Good­man, Gregerson, Hack­ney, Hansen, Har­ris-Tal­ley, John­son, Kir­by, Klo­ba, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Macri, Mor­gan, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Peter­son, Ramel, Ramos, Ric­cel­li, Ryu, San­tos, Sells, Senn, Sim­mons, Slat­ter, Springer, Stonier, Sul­li­van, Tay­lor, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Walen, Wicks, Wylie, Jinkins

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Abbarno, Barkis, Boehnke, Caldier, Cham­bers, Chan­dler, Chase, Cor­ry, Dent, Dufault, Dye, Eslick, Gil­day, Goehn­er, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Har­ris, Hoff, Jacob­sen, Klick­er, Klip­pert, Kraft, Kretz, MacEwen, May­cum­ber, McCaslin, McEn­tire, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Pol­let, Robert­son, Rude, Rule, Schmick, Shew­make, Steele, Stokes­bary, Suther­land, Vick, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Ybar­ra, Young

Three Democ­rats vot­ed against the bill: Ger­ry Pol­let of the 46th Dis­trict and Sharon Shew­make and Ali­cia Rule from the 42nd. Shew­make and Rule are front­line mem­bers who will be fac­ing tough Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion in their dis­tricts this autumn (Shew­make for Sen­ate, Rule for reelec­tion to the House).

The entire House Repub­li­can cau­cus also opposed the bill.

Repub­li­cans Jen­ny Gra­ham, Mike Volz, and Jim Walsh each offered amend­ments to the bill that were reject­ed. One of Volz’s amend­ments intrigu­ing­ly pro­posed that the dis­clo­sures be draft­ed by a com­mit­tee of fis­cal ana­lysts from the Office of Pro­gram Research in the House and two fis­cal ana­lysts from the Sen­ate Com­mit­tee Ser­vices, rather than by the Office of the Attor­ney General.

Although this amend­ment was not adopt­ed, that idea could still be con­sid­ered in the Sen­ate once the bill lands there.

Unlike the House, the Sen­ate has vot­ed sev­er­al times to pass leg­is­la­tion over the years that would pro­tect Wash­ing­ton’s ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum pow­ers from abuse. HB 1876 appears to have a promis­ing future in the Sen­ate. In fact, the Sen­ate State Gov­ern­ment Com­mit­tee, chaired by the leg­endary Sen­a­tor Sam Hunt, has already sched­uled a hear­ing on the bill for next week. We’ll be there to again express our strong sup­port for this much-need­ed legislation.

A big thank you to State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mia Gregerson for spon­sor­ing this incred­i­bly impor­tant bill and suc­cess­ful­ly get­ting it through the House!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “VICTORY! State House adopts bill to add fiscal impact disclosures to initiative ballot titles”

  1. We must stop decep­tive infor­ma­tion on titles for bal­lot ini­tia­tives. Elec­tion trans­paren­cy is essential.

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