TVW video still: House vote on Senate Bill 5082
TVW video still: House vote on Senate Bill 5082

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:

Roll Call
SB 5082
Advi­so­ry votes
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!

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 “VICTORY! Washington State House passes NPI’s bill to repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls”

Comments are closed.