Washingtonians’ ballots are on the verge of being liberated from right wing activist Tim Eyman’s malicious anti-tax propaganda at last!
Tonight, the Washington State House of Representatives voted 54–43 to pass the Northwest Progressive Institute’s legislation to abolish what Eyman calls “advisory votes,” but which are really push polls… prejudicially worded fake ballot measures that interrupt the act of voting and hinder electoral participation.
SB 5082, prime sponsored by Senator Patty Kuderer, replaces “advisory votes” with truthful, accurate, useful information about the state’s finances that is always available to voters on the web, with access instructions provided in the printed voter’s pamphlet in the form of a quick response (QR) code, URL, and phone number. SB 5082 and its House companion, HB 1158, prime sponsored by Representative Amy Walen, were NPI’s top legislative priority this year.
With the Senate having approved SB 5082 back in February, and with no amendments having been adopted in the House, tonight’s vote sends the legislation to the desk of Governor Jay Inslee. If Inslee signs it, it will go into effect ninety days following the adjournment of the 2023 Washington State Legislature.
The success of SB 5082 is the culmination of five years of voting justice advocacy, as I explained in a statement celebrating the bill’s passage, which you’ll find here.
Thousands of Washingtonians and dozens of organizations helped NPI secure the passage of this bill, and we are grateful to all of them. This is a big, big win for voters and taxpayers. It also demonstrates the power of persistence and patience.
The roll call on SB 5082 was as follows:
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 54; Nays: 43; Excused: 1
Voting Yea: Representatives Alvarado, Bateman, Berg, Bergquist, Berry, Bronoske, Callan, Chapman, Chopp, Cortes, Davis, Doglio, Donaghy, Duerr, Entenman, Farivar, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Fosse, Goodman, Gregerson, Hackney, Hansen, Kloba, Leavitt, Lekanoff, Macri, Mena, Morgan, Ormsby, Orwall, Peterson, Pollet, Ramel, Ramos, Reed, Reeves, Riccelli, Ryu, Santos, Senn, Simmons, Slatter, Springer, Stearns, Stonier, Street, Taylor, Thai, Tharinger, Timmons, Walen, Wylie, Jinkins
Voting Nay: Representatives Abbarno, Barkis, Barnard, Caldier, Chambers, Chandler, Cheney, Christian, Connors, Corry, Couture, Dent, Dye, Eslick, Goehner, Graham, Griffey, Harris, Hutchins, Jacobsen, Klicker, Kretz, Low, Maycumber, McClintock, McEntire, Mosbrucker, Orcutt, Paul, Robertson, Rude, Rule, Sandlin, Schmick, Schmidt, Shavers, Steele, Stokesbary, Volz, Walsh, Waters, Wilcox, Ybarra
Excused: Representative Ortiz-Self
Unlike in the Senate, SB 5082 passed the House with only Democratic votes, which we expected would be the case. Three frontline Democrats who are almost certainly going to be targeted by Republicans in next year’s presidential election cycle (and subjected to nasty attack ads) voted nay: Representatives Alicia Rule, Dave Paul, and Clyde Shavers. Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self missed the vote.
Republicans tried to sabotage our bill with amendments. Happily, they were turned back. SB 5082’s title explicitly states that it abolishes “advisory votes,” but almost all of the Republicans’ amendments would have resulted in them not being abolished, creating a conflict between the bill’s provisions and its title.
House rules do not permit bill titles to be amended, so after one of the amendments was knocked down with a scope and object challenge, Republicans simply waved the white flag of defeat and withdrew most of the others.
Two amendments were considered and rejected, one of which would have unnecessarily referred the bill to the people in the form of a binding referendum, wasting even more of Washingtonians’ time and money on “advisory votes.”
The bill then advanced to third reading.
Democratic Representative Amy Walen offered eloquent remarks urging a yes vote and was later joined by Democratic Representatives Kristine Reeves (D‑30th District: South King County) and Julia Reed (D‑36th District: Seattle).
Republicans — who obviously feel they benefit from anti-tax propaganda appearing annually on our ballots at taxpayer expense — grumbled at length.
They groused that the Legislature had no business repealing part of a voter-approved initiative, even though it’s the Legislature’s job to update our laws and even though many of them previously voted to get rid of I‑1351, an initiative to lower class sizes spearheaded by the Washington Education Association.
They griped that Democrats had rejected their “solutions” for saving “advisory votes” in some form or another… schemes that were beyond the scope of the bill and would have completely contradicted SB 5082’s intent and purpose.
They complained that the House of Representatives was not listening to the people, despite the fact that years of public opinion research by NPI demonstrates that most voters who have an opinion want “advisory votes” abolished, and despite all of the enthusiastic and well documented support the bill has received from organizations that represent and work with voters across Washington.
And hilariously, more than one of them got basic facts wrong while attempting to lecture their Democratic colleagues. For example, Representative Ed Orcutt, who’s served in the House for a very long time, misremembered Initiative 695 from 1999 as having been one of the initiatives that unconstitutionally required a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. However, I‑695 had no such provision.
Representative Kelly Chambers described “advisory votes” as having been around for almost thirty years, which is erroneous. The first “advisory votes” appeared on the ballot in 2012. “Advisory votes” date back to Initiative 960 in 2007; but after I‑960 passed, nobody remembered they existed for several years, not even Tim Eyman, so none appeared on the ballot in 2008, 2009, 2010, or 2011.
We put “advisory votes” in quotes because they are a misnomer — they are neither advisory nor are they votes. Rather, they are anti-tax messages that negatively describe bills the Legislature passed. They are dressed up to look like referenda, but they are not referenda. They’re fake: a cousin of push polls.
(Referenda is plural for referendum — a form of constitutionally-allowed ballot measure that allows the people to approve or reject bills the Legislature passed.)
Institutions like the Legislature definitely benefit from public input. Feedback is a good thing. But “advisory votes” cannot be used to gather feedback. They are defective by design. That’s why our bill repeals them. They can’t be fixed.
In public opinion research, you cannot find out what people think if you tell them what to think first. It’s a garbage in, garbage out situation. A loaded question will always yield worthless data that cannot be relied upon for developing public policy. If the question is not neutrally worded, then the instigator of the research is not actually giving respondents the opportunity to express their opinion.
There are Republicans out there who get all of this, like Senator Brad Hawkins, former Senators Barbara Bailey and Hans Zeiger, and former Secretary of State Sam Reed. All of them have previously backed our legislation. Zeiger gave the following speech for it in the Washington State Senate four years ago:
Thank you, Mr President. Rising in support of this bill… and although I add the caveat that there will be probably a number of people on this side of the aisle who oppose the bill.
But I’ll tell you why I support it. Advisory votes are like polls after the Legislature has taken a vote on a tax issue, and here’s why I’m okay with removing these kinds of votes from the ballot after we’ve had now over a decade of experience with these kinds of votes.
I get calls every election from people who are perplexed by advisory votes since they have no effect on the outcome of a tax issue after the Legislature has already acted.
Polls certainly have their place in our policy process, but I believe that items that show up on the ballot should actually enable voters to make a difference in the outcome of an issue.
It is the referendum and the initiative enshrined in our state Constitution that is the mechanism by which citizens can uphold or overturn an act of the Legislature on a tax issue, or any other issue. That is a process that actually fulfills a legislative function.
Indeed, the people of this state are just as much a part of the legislative branch as we are. So, I hope that we’ll find new ways for people to give the Legislature feedback on any number of issues that we cast votes on by contacting us directly.
Face-to-face relationships matter greatly in our democratic process and the main way that I think that we’re going to rebuild trust in this process is by finding new ways for citizens to get personally involved. But for now… I don’t see that advisory votes fill that function, and so asking for a yes vote on the bill.
Not a single House Republican had the good sense to say anything like this tonight. Fortunately, House Democrats got the job done. Our profound thanks to the fifty-four Democratic representatives who provided the votes to pass SB 5082. You’ve once again knocked down a barrier to voting in Washington. Bravo!