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 2019||Hypothetical 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 [ ]
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 [ ]
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:
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!