Brian Heywood and Jim Walsh
Millionaire Brian Heywood and Washington State Republican Party Chair Jim Walsh address their followers at their final signature turn-in event in December 2023 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Next week, as it approach­es the final day of the 2024 short ses­sion, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-run Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture is poised to do some­thing unusu­al: vote to adopt a set of three right wing ini­tia­tives into law.

The trio of mea­sures are half of a slate of six schemes spon­sored by Repub­li­can State Par­ty Chair Jim Walsh (who’s also a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive) and fund­ed almost exclu­sive­ly by one of his prin­ci­pal donors, hedge fund man­ag­er Bri­an Heywood.

Reg­u­lar read­ers are like­ly famil­iar with this slate of ini­tia­tives, as I’ve been writ­ing about them here for many months. They were all cer­ti­fied as ini­tia­tives to the Leg­is­la­ture back in Jan­u­ary after a com­bined sig­na­ture dri­ve that Hey­wood put up mil­lions of dol­lars for. Hey­wood is hard­ly the first mil­lion­aire to pur­chase con­sid­er­a­tion of an idea he want­ed to get passed into law, but he is the first rich guy in Wash­ing­ton to pur­chase a set of six dif­fer­ent schemes simultaneously.

Here are the num­bers for all six, and a descrip­tion of each:

  • Ini­tia­tive 2117 — repeals the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, which is rais­ing funds to fight cli­mate damage
  • Ini­tia­tive 2109 — repeals bil­lions in edu­ca­tion fund­ing by elim­i­nat­ing the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy
  • Ini­tia­tive 2124 — sab­o­tages the WA Cares plan to help Wash­ing­to­ni­ans afford long-term care
  • Ini­tia­tive 2113 — rolls back restric­tions on police pur­suits that are mak­ing our com­mu­ni­ties safer
  • Ini­tia­tive 2111 — bars the state and local gov­ern­ments from levy­ing tax­es on income as most oth­er states in the coun­try do
  • Ini­tia­tive 2081 — pri­mar­i­ly restates exist­ing laws con­cern­ing parental noti­fi­ca­tion, might be used by some fam­i­lies to force pub­lic schools to give par­ents infor­ma­tion that stu­dents may not want shared

Since even before the mea­sures qual­i­fied, pro­gres­sive strate­gists and law­mak­ers have been assess­ing them and con­tem­plat­ing what to do with them.

Because they’re ini­tia­tives to the Leg­is­la­ture, they were sent to the House and Sen­ate first, rather than being sent straight to the gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot. The Leg­is­la­ture must either (a) adopt them into law, (b) for­ward them to vot­ers, or (c) for­ward them to vot­ers with alter­na­tives. Option B is the default — it becomes the choice if the House and Sen­ate can’t agree and they take no action.

The Leg­is­la­ture has a decades-long tra­di­tion of most­ly going with Option B for ini­tia­tives. But as I allud­ed to above, a con­sen­sus has emerged that Hey­wood and Wal­sh’s slate should be cleaved in two. The first three ini­tia­tives, which would slash state rev­enue and harm pub­lic ser­vices, will go to the bal­lot. Those are Ini­tia­tives 2117, 2109, and 2124. The lat­ter three — Ini­tia­tives 2113, 2111, and 2081 — won’t. They’ll instead get added to our state’s body of laws.

Why would Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors want to adopt half of Bri­an Hey­wood and Jim Wal­sh’s bad ideas into law? Well, there are three main reasons:

  • First, Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors have con­clud­ed that two of the six ini­tia­tives (I‑2111, I‑2081) are most­ly sym­bol­ic and won’t cause imme­di­ate dam­age to our com­mu­ni­ties — they seem to have been con­ceived as mes­sag­ing tools — while the harm that a third might cause (I‑2113) would be limited.
  • Sec­ond, adopt­ing these mea­sures into law elim­i­nates an orga­niz­ing and mobi­liz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for the right wing in the com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, because these mea­sures won’t get con­sid­ered by voters.
  • And third, not send­ing them to the bal­lot guar­an­tees the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture’s abil­i­ty to amend them with­out Repub­li­can law­mak­ers’ con­sent for the next two leg­isla­tive sessions.

Let’s dis­cuss each of these rea­sons in more depth.

1. I‑2113, I‑2111, and I‑2081 wouldn’t cause the same widespread harm that their sibling measures would

Fis­cal analy­sis has con­firmed that Ini­tia­tives 2117, 2109, and 2124 would cause a lot of dam­age to Wash­ing­ton State’s com­mon wealth, while cred­i­ble pub­lic opin­ion research sug­gests Walsh and Hey­wood are going to have a tough time per­suad­ing vot­ers to pass them. Accord­ing­ly, Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship isn’t even both­er­ing to give those mea­sures any con­sid­er­a­tion. They’re being sent straight to voters.

How­ev­er, Ini­tia­tives 2113, 2111, and 2081 don’t attempt to repeal exist­ing state rev­enue, so they would­n’t cause the wide­spread harm that their sib­lings would.

Of the three, I‑2113 has the most poten­tial for harm, because it would roll back some of Wash­ing­ton’s restric­tions on rea­son­able police pur­suits. How­ev­er, I‑2113 does­n’t rescind all of the pro­vi­sions of the laws pre­vi­ous­ly passed by the Leg­is­la­ture on police pur­suit, nor does it touch oth­er police reform laws.

I‑2111, mean­while, seeks to ban some­thing we don’t yet have — an income tax — so it would­n’t have any imme­di­ate, prac­ti­cal ramifications.

Sim­i­lar­ly, I‑2081 has been assessed to be a mea­sure that most­ly restates exist­ing law gov­ern­ing par­ents’ rights and access to infor­ma­tion about their children.

Our team knows from twen­ty-two years of run­ning our Per­ma­nent Defense project that not all right wing ini­tia­tives are equal­ly harm­ful. When fac­ing more than one, pri­or­i­tiz­ing the defeat of the worst ones is a log­i­cal move.

We’ve done that our­selves — in 2005, for instance, we opposed both Tim Eyman’s I‑900 and John Carl­son and Kir­by Wilbur’s I‑912, but most of our ener­gy went to stop­ping I‑912, an effort to rescind gas tax increas­es, which vot­ers rejected.

2. Passing I‑2113, I‑2111, and I‑2081 into law now will keep them off the coming presidential election ballot

Statewide ini­tia­tives enjoy top billing on gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lots under exist­ing state law. They appear first, even above Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States and Gov­er­nor. By adopt­ing I‑2113, I‑2111, and I‑2081 into law, the House and Sen­ate will be able to keep them off the bal­lot, chop­ping in half the amount of bal­lot real estate that Walsh and Hey­wood will get. This also averts the need to run statewide cam­paigns against them, and it elim­i­nates an orga­niz­ing and mobi­liz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty in the pres­i­den­tial election.

To Demo­c­ra­t­ic and pro­gres­sive strate­gists, I‑2081 and I‑2111 in par­tic­u­lar appear to have been craft­ed to be irre­sistible “mes­sag­ing” ini­tia­tives, intend­ed to help get Repub­li­can vot­ers excit­ed about turn­ing out in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and give Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors and activists elec­tion results they can crow about amidst a wave of mas­sive­ly dis­ap­point­ing results in can­di­date elections.

I‑2081 and I‑2111 are in some ways sim­i­lar Tim Eyman’s push polls (“advi­so­ry votes”), which our team led a five year-effort to repeal. They pose what looks like a bind­ing ques­tion con­cern­ing pub­lic pol­i­cy or pub­lic finance, but regard­less of how vot­ers respond, there’s no imme­di­ate, real-world impact.

I‑2113 is dif­fer­ent. It’s not pri­mar­i­ly sym­bol­ic like the oth­er two, but the right wing is obvi­ous­ly pre­pared to use it as an orga­niz­ing and mobi­liz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty as well. Of Walsh and Hey­wood’s slate, I‑2113 arguably has the best bal­lot title — the words vot­ers would see rep­re­sent­ing the mea­sure if it went to the ballot.

3. If I‑2111, I‑2113, and I‑2081 are voted into law now, they can be amended by majority vote in 2025 or 2026

Now we come to the final big rea­son to take this action. By adopt­ing I‑2081, I‑2111, and I‑2113 into law now, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leg­is­la­ture guar­an­tees that it can amend these mea­sures in 2025 or 2026, where­as if any were to pass this Novem­ber, they would require a two-thirds vote of both cham­bers to change under the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion for a peri­od of two years.

While it’s pos­si­ble Democ­rats could win a super­ma­jor­i­ty of both cham­bers this Novem­ber, it’s unlike­ly. That would mean that Repub­li­cans would be able to use their votes to keep I‑2113, I‑2111, and I‑2081 in place as writ­ten until 2027 — in the event that Walsh and Hey­wood and the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty were suc­cess­ful in get­ting a major­i­ty of vot­ers to approve them.

There is mer­it to pre­vent­ing this worst-case scenario.

If it turns out that I‑2111 or I‑2081 cause harm that was­n’t expect­ed or antic­i­pat­ed, the Leg­is­la­ture could sim­ply pass a bill amend­ing them at any time by major­i­ty vote, which would then go to Gov­er­nor Inslee or his suc­ces­sor to be signed into law. I‑2113’s poten­tial for harm is greater, but I‑2113 at least does­n’t force local police depart­ments to be more irre­spon­si­ble and revert to all of their bad old prac­tices that have led to death and destruc­tion in the past.

NPI’s research has found that a major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans would pre­fer Democ­rats remain in con­trol of both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture in 2025. Repub­li­cans’ odds of pick­ing up even one cham­ber this year are con­sid­ered pret­ty much nonex­is­tent by strate­gists in both parties.

No role for Governor Inslee in making this decision

The Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion does not give the gov­er­nor a role in decid­ing the fate of ini­tia­tives to the Leg­is­la­ture. If the House and Sen­ate approve an ini­tia­tive, it becomes law. If they send it to the bal­lot, vot­ers decide its fate. If they send it to the bal­lot with an alter­na­tive, vot­ers answer a two-part ques­tion: (1) should either or nei­ther of these pro­pos­als be adopt­ed, and (2) if one is to be adopt­ed, which would should it be? Part­ly because these two-part ques­tions can be con­fus­ing, the Leg­is­la­ture has not sent an alter­na­tive to the bal­lot since 1988.

Con­se­quent­ly, Gov­er­nor Inslee does­n’t have a role in mak­ing this deci­sion, although he can weigh in with his thoughts pri­vate­ly or pub­licly if he wants.

What Walsh and Heywood want

Pub­licly, Jim Walsh and Bri­an Hey­wood are clam­or­ing for all of their ini­tia­tives to be vot­ed into law, but they of course don’t expect for that to happen.

They and the House and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have been clam­or­ing for hear­ings for each for weeks. Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship has refused to waste time and resources hear­ing I‑2117, I‑2109, and I‑2124, giv­en that they are not con­sid­er­ing adopt­ing them into law or send­ing them to the bal­lot with alternatives.

I‑2113, I‑2111, and I‑2081 were all heard this week, with Hey­wood appear­ing in front of the Sen­ate Law & Jus­tice Com­mit­tee to pitch I‑2113.

Pri­vate­ly, they may not be as thrilled about what’s about to hap­pen. They’ll def­i­nite­ly take a pub­lic vic­to­ry lap if I‑2113, I‑2111, and I‑2081 get approved — we’ll hear some gloat­ing and maybe toasts to bipar­ti­san­ship, since Repub­li­cans will like­ly be unit­ed in favor of the ini­tia­tives while Democ­rats could be divid­ed. But they know that the adop­tion of these mea­sures means they won’t be on the bal­lot and won’t enjoy the pro­tec­tion of a two-thirds vote to repeal for two years.

NPI’s view

I have writ­ten many times here on The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate that our loy­al­ty is to our val­ues, not to any donor, elect­ed offi­cial, or polit­i­cal par­ty. The ini­tia­tives pro­posed by Bri­an Hey­wood and Jim Walsh are all in con­flict with our val­ues and we are strong­ly opposed to them. As a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple, our team can­not and will not sup­port the adop­tion of any of them into law by the Legislature.

How­ev­er, we will respect the deci­sion our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives make.

If leg­is­la­tors vote I‑2111, I‑2113, and I‑2081 into law — per­haps as soon as Mon­day — then we will work with them down the road to ensure they don’t harm our com­mu­ni­ties or our future, and turn our atten­tion to defeat­ing the remain­ing three that are assured of going to the bal­lot: I‑2117, I‑2109, and I‑2124. The Defend Wash­ing­ton coali­tion is re-form­ing to ensure that Wash­ing­ton is pro­tect­ed from this destruc­tive trio, and we will con­tin­ue active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing to ensure it has the resources and effec­tive strate­gies need­ed to win in November.

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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