House State Government Committee hears Senate Bill 5082
The House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee listens to testimony on Senate Bill 5082, concerning making it easier to vote by repealing Tim Eyman's "advisory votes" (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

NPI’s leg­is­la­tion to make it eas­i­er to vote in Wash­ing­ton by abol­ish­ing Tim Eyman’s advi­so­ry votes push polls has cleared anoth­er leg­isla­tive hurdle.

By a vote of 4–3, with Democ­rats in favor and Repub­li­cans opposed, the House State Gov­ern­ment Com­mit­tee gave Sen­ate Bill 5082 a “do pass” rec­om­men­da­tion, send­ing it up to the House Rules Com­mit­tee for fur­ther consideration.

Prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er, D‑48th Dis­trict (Red­mond, Kirk­land, Belle­vue, Med­i­na, the Points com­mu­ni­ties) SB 5082 would spare Wash­ing­ton vot­ers from hav­ing any more of their valu­able tax dol­lars spent on anti-tax ads dressed up to look like real bal­lot mea­sures, but which have no effect on state fis­cal pol­i­cy and are loaded with prej­u­di­cial, inflam­ma­to­ry wording.

5082 replaces what are real­ly push polls with a reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed online pre­sen­ta­tion con­tain­ing accu­rate, use­ful infor­ma­tion about the Leg­is­la­ture’s fis­cal deci­sions, acces­si­ble from the voter’s pam­phlet via a quick response (QR) code, a web address (URL), and a tele­phone number.

A bipar­ti­san major­i­ty of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate sent the bill over to the House last month. It then received a hear­ing on March 10th, at which NPI and many oth­er orga­ni­za­tions that work on vot­ing jus­tice spoke in favor of it.

Today, the bill took anoth­er crit­i­cal step for­ward on its jour­ney towards hope­ful­ly becom­ing the law of the land of the State of Washington.

The roll call on the bill in House State Gov­ern­ment was as follows:

Sup­port­ing a “do pass” rec­om­men­da­tion: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Bill Ramos (Chair), Chris Stearns (Vice Chair), Mia Gregerson, Sharlett Mena

Offer­ing a “do not pass” rec­om­men­da­tion: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Peter Abbarno (Rank­ing Mem­ber), Leonard Christian

With­out rec­om­men­da­tion: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sam Low

Repub­li­cans pro­posed a slew of amend­ments seek­ing to gut the bill and save Eyman’s “advi­so­ry votes” — at least in some form. The com­mit­tee reject­ed all of the Repub­li­can amend­ments and kept the bill that passed the Sen­ate intact, pre­serv­ing its intent and pro­vi­sions, which our team deeply appreciates.

Dur­ing the debate over the bill, Repub­li­cans Peter Abbarno, Leonard Chris­t­ian, and Sam Low spoke repeat­ed­ly of try­ing to fix prob­lems with “advi­so­ry votes” that were iden­ti­fied in tes­ti­mo­ny with their amendments.

But “advi­so­ry votes” can’t be fixed. They are con­cep­tu­al­ly flawed.

The bal­lot is the mech­a­nism by which we make the impor­tant deci­sions about who rep­re­sents us and what laws or plan of gov­ern­ment we should have. It’s sim­ply not an appro­pri­ate place for adver­tis­ing or polling of any kind.

That’s why SB 5082 does­n’t both­er with try­ing to save Eyman’s push polls. Instead, it gets rid of them because they don’t belong there.

Imag­ine if Democ­rats fol­lowed the prece­dent of I‑960 and vot­ed into law their own crop of auto­mat­i­cal­ly-trig­gered “advi­so­ry votes.” For instance, an advi­so­ry vote could be trig­gered every time a bill was passed that affect­ed repro­duc­tive rights, ask­ing if the law should be approved or dis­ap­proved, and pre­scrib­ing a loaded ques­tion that invit­ed vot­ers to vote “Approved” on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic bills.

Repub­li­cans would be fierce­ly opposed. No question.

Giv­en an oppor­tu­ni­ty to save mil­lions of tax dol­lars and elim­i­nate some­thing that is def­i­nite­ly not a core func­tion of gov­ern­ment, three House Repub­li­cans said no today. Because it turns out that as far as they’re con­cerned, wast­ing tax dol­lars is a‑okay if that waste is ben­e­fit­ing a right wing, anti-tax agenda.

Abbarno, Low, and Chris­t­ian also kept bring­ing up how Ini­tia­tive 960 (the Eyman ini­tia­tive that orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed “advi­so­ry votes”) was approved by vot­ers and is there­fore sacro­sanct. They seemed not to appre­ci­ate the irony that they them­selves were seek­ing to dras­ti­cal­ly change I‑960 through their amendments.

For instance, one of their ideas was to roll “advi­so­ry votes” into a sin­gle bal­lot item — one com­bined big piece of anti-tax pro­pa­gan­da. Anoth­er pro­pos­al spec­i­fied that leg­isla­tive lead­ers should decide when an “advi­so­ry vote” goes on the bal­lot. There’s no way Tim Eyman would sup­port a bill mak­ing such changes. He would say it was a betray­al of what the vot­ers vot­ed for with I‑960.

But it’s the Leg­is­la­ture’s job to reg­u­lar­ly update our laws — includ­ing the laws the peo­ple passed through the ini­tia­tive process — to make sure that Wash­ing­ton is well served by them. If a law turns out to not be in the pub­lic inter­est, the Leg­is­la­ture has a duty to take action. That’s why we have a Legislature.

NPI has four years of statewide and local polling show­ing that vot­ers who have an opin­ion want “advi­so­ry votes” repealed — and we made sure to ask a neu­tral ques­tion so we could find out what peo­ple real­ly think about them. So we can say with con­fi­dence that vot­ers are enthused about get­ting Sen­ate Bill 5082 passed.

Not many peo­ple know that for sev­er­al years after I‑960 was passed (it appeared in the bal­lot of Novem­ber of 2007), there were no “advi­so­ry votes”. Our then statewide Repub­li­can elect­ed offi­cials Sam Reed and Rob McKen­na and their staffs for­got to imple­ment that pro­vi­sion of I‑960 and nobody flagged their mistake.

Let me reit­er­ate: The first Eyman push polls did­n’t appear on the bal­lot until 2012, because no one — not even Tim Eyman — remem­bered that they existed.

Nobody missed “advi­so­ry votes” when they weren’t on the bal­lot in 2008, 2009, 2010, or 2011. Sim­i­lar­ly, with the excep­tion of right wing oper­a­tives like Tim Eyman and Eyman’s fans, nobody is going to miss them after they’re repealed.

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.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “NPI’s bill to scrap Tim Eyman’s push polls advances to the House Rules Committee”

Comments are closed.