Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

VICTORY! Tim Eyman ordered to cooperate with AG investigation, pay enforcement costs

Hopefully putting an end to months of stonewalling by Tim Eyman, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair today ordered the initiative profiteer to cooperate with Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s investigation into his alleged violations of Washington’s public disclosure law, which began last fall with a referral of a complaint from the Public Disclosure Commission.

Eyman has until July 13th to turn over tax returns, bank statements and other information sought by Ferguson’s office as part of its investigation. Eyman is also being required to pay attorney’s fees to compensate the State of Washington for costs associated with enforcing its lawful orders.

Judge Fair (whose surname earned her a profile in The Herald of Everett a few years ago) heard oral arguments during today’s civil motions calendar from Chad Standifer, representing the State of Washington, and Mark Lamb, representing Tim Eyman. After listening to presentations by each, she determined that Eyman had no justification for not cooperating with the investigation.

Judge Fair hears arguments in State of Washington v. Tim Eyman et al

Judge Ellen Fair hears arguments from attorneys Chad Standifer, representing the State of Washington, and Mark Lamb, representing Tim Eyman (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Eyman’s position, as represented by Lamb, is that he’s okay with the state’s investigators coming to Lamb’s office or some other location and looking at the requested records, but he doesn’t want to turn over copies of the because he’s afraid that his opponents, or other persons who are not in alignment with his aims and agenda, would request the information through the Public Records Act.

Ferguson’s office maintains they need the records to properly investigate Eyman’s wrongdoing, that Eyman has no legitimate grounds for withholding them, and that if somebody makes a request for the information, there is a mechanism in place that would allow Eyman to request the information be exempted from disclosure.

Fair agreed and granted the relief requested by the State.

“Mr. Lamb has been quite candid with the Court in terms of indicating, several times, and in his written materials, that his client has absolutely no objection to the State viewing the records […] and is concerned clearly not about the State viewing them, but about, I guess, the public viewing them, or being out in the public purview,” she said, once Standifer and Lamb had finished their presentations.

“But I would agree with the State that I don’t think that is what’s before the Court today. There is no public records request; this is just a request to enforce subpoenas, which there’s no argument being made that the State does not have the right to do. So I would agree […] there’s no protective order before the Court, there’s no public records request before the Court, and so I think that the State is entitled to the records,” she concluded.

After awarding the State attorney’s fees, which the State is entitled to under Chapter 42.17A of the Revised Code of Washington, Fair brought the hearing to an end. It’s our understanding that the proposed order drafted by the State gives Eyman a couple of weeks to turn over the requested documents. Should he fail to do so, he could be found in contempt in court, which could land him in jail.

UPDATE: Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office has released a statement lauding the order and vowing to hold Tim Eyman accountable.

“No one is above the law,” Ferguson said. “My office will conduct a full investigation of this matter, and I will not allow Tim Eyman to impede it.”

We thank Attorney General Ferguson for his determination to bring the truth to light. It is vital that Tim Eyman be held responsible for his wrongdoing.

KPLU SAVED! Deal with KUOW is off, 88.5 FM to become an independent NPR affiliate

A major victory for media diversity and independent journalism has been won today with the news that Pacific Lutheran University has agreed to sell NPR affiliate KPLU to the nonprofit group Friends of 88.5 FM, which successfully raised $7 million in the span of just a few months to keep the station independent.

The just-announced agreement nixes a plan hatched in secret last year to to merge KPLU and the University of Washington-owned KUOW, which would have meant the loss of one of the region’s most respected newsrooms.

Assuming the Federal Communications Commission signs off, 88.5 FM will soon be getting new call letters and declaring its independence from Pacific Lutheran University, likely this autumn. It will be allowed to continue using PLU facilities rent-free for three years, after which it will seek to move into a new home.

“I just want to thank everyone who donated time, donated money, helped out in any way, spoke up. You were heard, and it looks like we’re going to be successful,” said Friends of 88.5 FM Chairman Stephen Tan.

“We are impressed by the fundraising effort undertaken by the Friends of 88.5 FM,” said PLU President Thomas W. Krise.  “We thank the University of Washington for gracefully agreeing to step aside and let KPLU continue to serve its listeners with the news and jazz programming they have come to rely upon. We wish the community group well as they continue to serve and celebrate the greater Puget Sound area.”

Many other NPR affiliates around the country are also owned by community licensees. It’s wonderful to see 88.5 FM join the independent media movement.

In a statement, the leadership of the University of Washington confirmed that its agreement to purchase KPLU from PLU had been terminated.

“Congratulations to the Friends of 88.5 on their agreement with Pacific Lutheran University to purchase KPLU, and on the unprecedented fundraising effort that made it possible,” said University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce. “We are delighted they were able to make it happen.”

“The generosity of KPLU’s listeners is a testament both to the excellence of the station’s programming and to the deep affection that Puget Sound listeners hold for public radio,” said KUOW General Manager Caryn Mathes.

“Through the Northwest News Network, KUOW has long partnered with KPLU to provide listeners of both stations with coverage of state government and other regional news. We look forward to continuing that partnership as the Friends of 88.5 assume the operation of the station.”

All of us at NPI congratulate Friends of 88.5 FM on the successful fundraising campaign and successful negotiations to buy the station from PLU. We were proud to support the drive and feature a link to donate to make 88.5 FM independent on our homepage from the campaign’s inception through its glorious finish.

This is truly a great outcome, and everyone who had anything to do with it can feel very proud that the station will live on as an independent NPR affiliate.

Brexit vote: “Leave” wins stunning victory, but Scotland and N. Ireland vote to Remain

A majority of voters in the United Kingdom of Great Britain have decided to break up with the European Union, British mass media outlets are projecting, stunning financial markets and pundits who had predicted a victory for the Remain campaign when all was said and done. At around midnight Eastern time and 9 PM Pacific, the Leave side had a lead of over 700,000 votes, and was winning handily in England and Wales, but losing Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has yet to issue any statement or react to the referendum. Several authorities have yet to release their counts, though the number of areas that have yet to report in is dwindling, which is why the BBC and other media outlets have started making projections.

Britain’s currency, the pound sterling, has already fallen sharply, dropping to levels not seen since 1985, and major losses are expected when the London stock market opens for business in a few hours. Asian markets are already in bad shape.

The notion that the United Kingdom will soon become “independent” may be a short-lived fantasy. There may not be a United Kingdom at all for very much longer. What tonight’s vote reminded us is that the UK is a deeply divided country, despite its name. England and Wales have endorsed a breakup with the European Union, but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted decisively to Remain.

Britain’s exist from the European Union is almost sure to revitalize the effort in Scotland to leave the United Kingdom. Asked to react to the results of the vote, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did not immediately call for another Scottish independence referendum, but did point out that a majority of Scots were in favor of sticking with the EU, in contrast to the English:

Scotland has delivered a strong, unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, and I welcome that endorsement of our European status. And while the overall result remains to be declared, the vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union.

Scotland has contributed significantly to the remain vote across the UK. That reflects the positive campaign the SNP fought, which highlighted the gains and benefits of our EU membership, and people across Scotland have responded to that positive message. We await the final UK-wide result, but Scotland has spoken – and spoken decisively.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling certainly shares this view. She tweeted, “Scotland will seek independence now. [David] Cameron’s legacy will be breaking up two unions. Neither needed to happen.”

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, the pro-Irish reunification political party Sinn Fein declared: “The British government has forfeited any mandate to represent economic or political interests of people in Northern Ireland.”

President Barack Obama is currently in California and scheduled to fly to Seattle tomorrow for fundraising events. The White House has not released a statement on the vote, owing to the lateness of the hour, the fact that not all the votes have been counted yet, and the likelihood that Obama has not yet called Cameron to discuss the fallout with him. But there will probably be a statement coming tomorrow.

“The President has been briefed on the incoming returns in the UK referendum, and he will continue to be updated by his team as the situation warrants,” said a spokesman for the Obama administration. “We expect the President will have an opportunity to speak to Prime Minister Cameron over the course of the next day, and we will release further comment as soon as appropriate.”

There is expected to be immediate fallout from the “Brexit” in the United States, as the Wall Street Journal’s Ian Talley explains:

Britain’s exit is expected to jolt the U.S. economy, likely rattling restive equity markets and driving up the value of the dollar. It could also weaken U.S. diplomatic leverage in Europe and upend the corporate strategies of U.S. companies based in London.

Top finance officials say the damage from the so-called Brexit alone isn’t likely to be enough to nudge the U.S. into a contraction. But as skittish investors pull out of U.K. and European markets and pour into the safety of U.S. assets, a falling pound and euro could cause the dollar to surge, further suppressing demand for American exports.

Ireland will also be significantly affected.

‘The Government notes the outcome of the UK EU referendum this morning,” the Irish government said in a statement. “This result clearly has very significant implications for Ireland, as well as for Britain and for the European Union. The Government will meet later this morning to reflect on the result. Following that meeting, the Taoiseach will make a public statement.”

UPDATE, BREAKING NEWS, 12:28 AM: Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered a statement outside of Number 10 Downing Street accepting the results of the referendum and announcing that he will resign as Prime Minister in October. Thus triggers a leadership contest in the governing Tory Party. It will likely also lead to new elections in the U.K. within the next year.

Said Cameron:

I was absolutely clear [in the referendum] about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union. And I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone, not the future of any single politician, including myself.

But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.

I will do everthing I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months. But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

This is not a decision I have taken lightly. But I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.

There is no need for a precise timetable today. But in my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative party conference in October.

This post will be updated with fresh developments.

Sound Transit Board sends ST3 to ballot; Mass Transit Now campaign launches to pass it

Sound Transit’s eighteen member Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt the revised draft ST3 (Phase III) plan and refer it to the voters of urban King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties this afternoon, successfully concluding several years of extensive planning and public outreach.

Board Chair Dow Constantine thanked Sound Transit staff for their hard work in putting the package together, and declared that the campaign to pass the measure (Regional Proposition #1) would begin immediately.

“Sound Transit 3 will dramatically expand our light rail system, which is critical to our region’s mobility and our economic future,” said Constantine.

“A single light rail line can move 16,000 people per hour — [that’s] an entire new [expressway] of regular car lanes. After decades of lagging behind on transit, we finally have a chance to catch up. This carefully crafted, major mobility expansion – sixty-two new miles of light rail, plus high capacity bus and rail improvements – is exactly what the people of this region have been demanding. I urge everyone to join the Mass Transit Now coalition – let’s make history this November.”

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers added their enthusiastic support at a news conference shortly after the adjournment of Sound Transit’s final June board meeting.

“The extension of reliable, predictable light rail service from Federal Way to Tacoma, additional Sounder commuter rail service, and the extension to Tacoma Community College means that Tacoma and Pierce County will now be reliably connected to SeaTac, Seattle, and our entire central Puget Sound region. That is going to be a huge plus for the South Sound economy and for the quality of life of Pierce County residents,” said McCarthy.

“Passing the Sound Transit 3 measure at the ballot is key part of ensuring that the future of Snohomish County will be bright,” agreed Somers, who became Snohomish County Executive last year. “Connecting Everett with the rest of the region through quick, reliable light rail mass transit will reduce congestion, boost our local economy and improve our quality of life for decades to come.”

Eighty-five elected officials have already endorsed a YES vote on Proposition #1, and that list will be growing in the coming weeks.

Here is an overview of the final Sound Transit 3 plan:

  • Adds sixty-two more miles of Link light rail with stations serving thirty-seven neighborhoods. The first ST3 stations would open in 2024. If ST3 is approved, light rail would be expanded to the following places:
    • Ballard
    • West Seattle
    • Downtown Redmond
    • Everett via Paine Field
    • Tacoma via Federal Way
    • Issaquah
    • South Kirkland
  • Improves ST Express bus service by modifying I-5, I-405, SR 518, SR 167, I-90 to allow buses to run on highway shoulders during peak commute times, and add hundreds of thousands of additional service hours
  • Creates two new Bus Rapid Transit lines: one to serve the I-405 corridor (Lynnwood-Burien) and one to serve the SR 522 corridor (UW Bothell and Woodinville to NE 145th Light Rail Station); both would open in 2024
  • Creates new transit access parking in Renton (with a new transit center), Sammamish (with a new park & ride), as well as Mukilteo, Edmonds, South Kirkland, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, and Bothell
  • Expand Sounder commuter rail service south from Lakewood to serve new stations in DuPont and Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM)
  • Extend the Tacoma Link Streetcar to Tacoma Community College

A complete list of projects and interactive map is available at

The total package would cost $53.8 billion and would be financed through a mix of sales taxes, property taxes, vehicle fees, and bonds. The typical adult in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction would pay about $17 more a month for the projects.

“If implemented, the ST3 Plan is projected to up to quintuple Sound Transit ridership from what it is today, increasing it from approximately 145,000 each weekday to between 561,000 and 695,000 daily riders in 2040,” the agency said in a news release, in which it noted that express bus travel times are deteriorating due to heavy congestion on highways like I-5 and I-405.

“With ST3, the share of all transit travel in the region on Sound Transit rail lines will grow from 17 percent today to 69 percent in 2040. This means more than four times as much transit travel will occur on vehicles that don’t get stuck in traffic.”

Research conducted by Sound Transit shows that the region is hungry for more light rail and that the concern of most residents is how fast it can be delivered:

In a phone survey that Sound Transit conducted in April, 65 percent of respondents stated they strongly (30 percent) or somewhat (36 percent) supported the ST3 draft package in a question that described the associated tax increases. Following a question describing the plan’s previously proposed project timelines, 59 percent of respondents strongly (24 percent) or somewhat (35 percent) supported the draft package. The website includes a presentation summarizing the public input and phone survey.

Opponents of ST3 include many of the same cast of characters who previously opposed ST2 eight years ago. Those against the package have signaled their campaign will be based on the premise that light rail is a bad investment — the same argument voters overwhelmingly rejected eight years ago.

YES on Sound Transit 3: Now is the time to make a bold investment in regional mobility

Editor’s Note: Today at Union Station, I spoke in favor of Sound Transit’s ST3 plan, and urged the Sound Transit Board of Directors to place it on the ballot. The following is the text of my prepared testimony. I delivered an abbreviated version of these remarks before the Board during its public comment period.

Good afternoon Chair Constantine and Members of the Sound Transit Board:

For the record, my name is Andrew Villeneuve. I am the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a strategy center working to raise our region’s quality of life through innovative research and imaginative advocacy.

Since February of 2002, NPI’s Permanent Defense has been a tireless supporter of this agency, working to educate the public about the incredibly valuable work that Sound Transit does. We believe that it is vitally important that our region develop a rail spine to provide an alternative to driving in our highly congested travel corridors. We strongly support the draft ST3 plan, and we ask the Board to place it on the ballot for the voters to consider this November today.

As longtime transit advocates, we reject the buses versus trains dichotomy that opponents of this plan seem locked into.

The truth is, we need both buses and trains. They complement each other. What critics of this plan refuse to acknowledge that people who own cars have a choice as to how they get to work. If we want to get people out of their cars, then we have to provide transit service that they WANT to use.

The research shows that there are a lot of car owners out there who will ride a train, but not a bus. Consider the experience of St. Louis, a city I’ll be visiting in just a couple of weeks for Netroots Nation 2016. After they opened their first rail line in 1993, they did a survey of transit riders, and they found the following:

  • Among bus riders, 70% said they used the bus because they did not drive or had no car available. For train riders, the figure was 17%.
  • 84% of train riders rated service as excellent or good, compared to 57% of bus riders.
  • 40% of bus riders owned no car, and 28% had two or more cars. Only 8% of train riders had no car, and 68% had two or more cars.
  • 57% of bus riders had annual household incomes of less than $20,000, compared to 21% of train riders.

This data illustrates that car owners who are averse to buses are willing to ride trains. It’s very important, because it shows us that the way to get people out of their cars is to offer a multimodal transit system that offers high quality transit service. Again, we need both a robust bus network and a rail spine. These are things that go together — and Sound Transit’s hardworking staff understands this.

There is no magic remedy that will cure or solve traffic congestion.

The notion that self-driving cars will vanish away traffic jams is a fantasy.

The notion that a transit system should consist of buses alone ignores the experience of cities like St. Louis, which have improved mobility by constructing rail lines that provide a reliable way to get to school, and major events.

The critics say that instead of expanding Link, we should invest in “massive” bus rapid transit. What they won’t admit is that for bus rapid transit to work properly on a “massive” scale, we would need to construct a system in which the buses can operate in their own dedicated right of way so they can’t get stuck in traffic.

How is Sound Transit supposed to obtain this right of way? Any attempt to convert general highway lanes, express toll lanes, or HOV lanes to be bus-only lanes would be a political nonstarter. We would have to widen our already wide highways to add new lanes for buses — at a cost of billions of dollars.

Since full-bore bus rapid transit would not be cheaper than expanding Link, and since buses lack the appeal of trains to the auto-owning public, we can dismiss the argument that we should be building “massive BRT” instead of light rail.

Light rail is a proven technology and a proven transit mode. It excels at moving large numbers of people through highly congested corridors, which is where most of our gridlock is. And that is how this plan envisions that it will be deployed.

For far too long, we’ve had buses moonlighting as trains because we neglected to invest in a rail spine for our region when we had the chance decades ago.

We can’t repeat that mistake again. We need to build on the success of Sound Move and ST2 by giving voters a chance to pass ST3.

If the system envisioned in ST3 existed now, I would have been able to take a train from my hometown right to Union Station to deliver this testimony. Instead, I had to take a bus. I rode a 545 Express to get here not an hour ago, and that bus moved very slowly through downtown Seattle’s surface streets because it had to stop repeatedly for vehicles turning right and for construction work.

I’ll be taking Link light rail to the University District as the first part of my journey home, so I’m not on a vehicle that’s crawling through the streets of downtown Seattle at rush hour. I’ll have to transfer to a bus for the rest of the journey home, because ST3 doesn’t exist yet. I am very much looking forward to the day when I can take a train all the way into downtown Seattle to attend Sound Transit board meetings, go to Mariners games, and shop at Pike Place Market.

Grade-separated rail works. It is a worthy investment.

This plan will bring grade separated rail to many more neighborhoods throughout our region. In addition to NPI’s hometown of downtown Redmond, ST3 will bring Link to Ballard, West Seattle, Federal Way, Everett, Issaquah, and Tacoma.  It will also expand Sounder commuter rail and Express bus service.

ST3 is a carefully developed plan based on years of public outreach. We’re excited to see it go to the ballot. Thank you to all the staff for your years of work putting this together. Now begins the campaign to pass it. Let’s go out and win!

HAPPENING NOW: U.S. House Democrats stage sit-in on House floor over gun violence

Fed up with inaction in Congress on gun safety reform, Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives have decided to occupy the well of the House until Speaker Paul Ryan and his leadership team agree to hold a vote on legislation that would address the nation’s gun violence epidemic.

The sit-in began with a speech from the great Congressman John Lewis, who declared, “We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the deaths in our nation.” He then proceeded to ask: “Mr, Speaker, where is the heart of this body? Where is our soul?” He and many Democratic colleagues then sat down in the well of the House at 8:30 AM Pacific Time — and they have not budged since.

When Republican U.S. Representative Ed Poe of Texas tried to order the Democrats out of the well in order to go back to the business Republicans had planned, the Democrats refused, breaking out into cries of “No bill, no vote!”

Republican leadership then ordered the cameras in the House chamber turned off, and the mics cut off. Democrats promptly countered this move by starting up a livestream of their protest on Periscope, which C-SPAN began broadcasting.

Democrats have repeatedly vowed not to go anywhere until their demands are met. Their rallying cry is “No break, no bill.”

“I am willing to stay here until hell freezes over,” said a defiant Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, as the protest picked up more participants.

Democratic lawmakers are taking turns giving impromptu speeches from the floor, explaining why they are done merely paying lip service to victims of gun violence and holding meaningless moments of silence.

We at NPI applaud this protest and we hope House Democrats have the stamina to continue it for as long as is necessary to force House Republicans to agree to schedule a vote on legislation to address our nation’s gun violence epidemic.

Republicans, who have for so long been the masters of political theater in Congress, now find themselves totally upstaged by fed up Democrats. If Democrats want to get back into the majority, this is precisely what they need to be doing. We congratulate Congressman John Lewis and his colleagues for taking this action.

Watch the sit-in on C-SPAN.

Washington voters want revenue bills decided by a simple majority vote, NPI research finds

Over the course of the past twenty-five years, right wing Republicans in Washington have been on a mission to sabotage the majority vote clause of our state’s Constitution. Through a series of statewide initiatives sponsored by Linda Smith and Tim Eyman, they’ve repeatedly attempted to grant themselves the power to block any bill that would raise revenue to fund essential public services.

Since its founding in February of 2002, NPI’s Permanent Defense has been fighting nonstop alongside leaders like Senators Reuven Carlyle and David Frockt to defeat these destructive initiatives and uphold Article II, Section 22 of our Constitution, which says that bills in Washington’s Legislature shall pass by a majority vote.

We’ve had a lot more success in the courts than in the court of public opinion. In 2013, the Washington Supreme Court finally struck down as unconstitutional the statutory requirement imposed by Smith’s I-601 and Eyman’s I-960/I-1053/I-1185 that any revenue bill receive a two-thirds vote in order to pass. The Court held that the words majority vote in Article II, Section 22 meant just that — a majority vote.

Two years later, Eyman responded to that decision by sponsoring I-1366, which narrowly passed with the support of just 19% of Washington’s registered voters.

I-1366 threatened to eliminate $8 billion in funding for schools and vital public services over six years if the Legislature did not pass an amendment sabotaging Article II, Section 22 by April 15th, 2016. Thankfully, I-1366 was never implemented; it was struck down as unconstitutional in January, and that judgment was affirmed by a unanimous Supreme Court last month.

I-1366 is now in Washington’s political graveyard, where it belongs. But the right wing is still bent on sabotaging our Constitution. Tim Eyman and his friends at the Washington Policy Center want to give right wing Republicans in the Legislature permanent veto power over any revenue bill.

Eyman and the Washington Policy Center claim that the people are on their side. They cite the the passage of Initiatives 601, 960, 1053, and 1185, along with polling they’ve commissioned, as evidence that the public wants to amend the Constitution to require that revenue bills pass with a two-thirds vote.

Effectively, that would mean that right wing Republicans would be dictating Washington’s fiscal policy no matter what — for when a two-thirds vote is required to do something, it puts just over one-third in control of the outcome.

This pictogram illustrates what I’m talking about (click to enlarge):

Pictogram: Don't mess with our Constitution

Don’t mess with our Constitution

“Washington’s constitution makes it very clear the people are the sovereigns of the state and not subjects of the political class. The real question is whether lawmakers will finally represent the will of the people or instead continue to ignore the clear and consistent message from those they are supposed to represent,” opined the Washington Policy Center’s Jason Mercier last November.

Eyman and Mercier’s assertion that the public is with them has largely gone unchallenged for years. But no longer.

Today, we are delighted to share new research that shows that a large majority of Washington voters agree with us that a simple, fifty percent majority vote should decide the fate of all revenue bills in our state House and Senate.

We asked likely November 2016 voters in Washington the following question:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: all revenue bills and budgets in the Washington State Legislature should be decided by a simple fifty percent majority vote?

679 likely voters in Washington State responded to our survey, which was in the field from June 14th-15th, 2016. All respondents participated via landline. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.

These were the answers we received to the question above:

  • Agree: 59%
    • 36% “strongly agree”
    • 23% “somewhat agree”
  • Disagree: 34%
    • 17% “somewhat disagree”
    • 17% “strongly disagree”
  • 6% answered “not sure” 

Nearly three-fifths of the voters we surveyed agreed that all revenue bills and budgets in the Washington State Legislature should be decided by a simple majority vote. Contrast these answers with the outcomes of Initiatives 601, 960, 1053, 1185, and the polling done by the other side. This important finding is a testament to the old adage the answers you get depend on the questions you ask.

How a question is framed to the public is hugely consequential. For years, the right wing has been asking voters, Do you think it should take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes? while also relentlessly promoting a two-thirds vote for taxes as a worthy idea and a “good government” reform.

Washington’s progressive movement has not responded effectively to this long-running campaign in the court of public opinion — or, in some cases, at all. We’ve either lost by a little or a lot depending on the effort we’ve put in.

In years where we have collectively bothered to try organizing proper NO campaigns, we’ve lost by close margins (as was the case in 1993 and 2007). When we’ve neglected to do the early work required to build a credible, meaningful NO campaign, we’ve suffered blowout losses (as was the case in 2010 and 2012).

We can be grateful that our courts have repeatedly stepped in to uphold our Constitution and safeguard our cherished tradition of majority rule.

But it’s time we started winning in the court of public opinion as well as the courts. We’ve been losing because we keep allowing the right wing to frame this debate on their terms. When we let them frame the questions, we lose. It is that simple.

It’s as though Eyman, Mercier, and Co. have been continually challenging us to a wager on a rigged coin flip (heads they win, tails we lose). And, like oblivious characters in a James Bond movie sitting across the card or backgammon table from the cheating villain, we keep playing their game — and losing.

No more.

We shouldn’t be continually having to explain why requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue is a bad idea. Instead, we should be explaining why requiring a majority vote for all legislation is a good idea.

We win when we go on offense. The last time we gave Washington voters the opportunity to vote for a simple majority threshold for revenue, the voters said yes. The year was 2007, and the Legislature at the time had Democratic supermajorities in both houses. Over vehement opposition from the likes of Republicans such as Ed Orcutt, Democrats succeeded in passing a constitutional amendment to lower the bar for passage of school levies from three-fifths to a simple majority.

In accordance with Article XXIII of the Constitution, it took a two-thirds vote to pass the amendment out of the Legislature and send it to the voters for consideration. (Because the Constitution is our plan of government, it requires minority consent to amend. That way, its carefully-crafted provisions, which balance majority rule and minority rights can’t be changed on a whim.)

The amendment, HJR 4204, appeared on the November 2007 ballot alongside I-960, the first of Eyman’s I-601 clones.

Remarkably, as I’ve previously noted here on the Cascadia Advocate, both measures passed. Given that the affirmative vote for each measure was a majority, it’s likely that there were at least some voters who voted yes on each.

What this shows us is that not only does the will of the voters change from election to election, but frequently the voters contradict themselves within the confines of the same election. Voters have passed Tim Eyman initiatives while at the same time  electing leaders fiercely opposed to those very same initiatives, for example.

The research above suggests that if progressives qualified an initiative to the ballot to clean up the Revised Code of Washington and remove the now unenforceable language saying a two-thirds vote is required to pass any revenue bill, replacing it with language affirming that a simple fifty percent majority vote is sufficient to pass revenue bills like the Constitution says, that initiative would pass.

Tim Eyman and the Washington Policy Center tried very hard in the wake of the passage of I-1366 to intimidate Democratic lawmakers into submission and get the amendment that they wanted. At the same time, we encouraged House and Democrats to hold firm and defend our Constitution. And they did.

In an amazing display of Democratic unity, not a single Democratic lawmaker capitulated to Eyman and the right wing. Not a single one.

Our Founders would be proud of them.

In the summer of 1889, when our Founders drafted our Constitution, they debated what the threshold for passage of legislation should be. They decided to require an absolute simple majority vote of each house to pass bills. That means greater than fifty percent — no more, and no less. Any other standard would mean that a few would be in control of the outcome, instead of the many.

The plan of government they gave us has stood the test of time. Sadly, the power-hungry right wing in our state wants to sabotage our Constitution for their own gain. They’ve done an awfully good job convincing the press that the people are on their side and want a two-thirds vote to determine the fate of revenue legislation. But we’ve just proved that’s not the case. Our new research shows that when you ask a very different question, you get a very different answer.

I want to point out that we could have put a leading question into our poll, like the Washington Policy Center did in theirs last autumn, to increase the likelihood of getting a favorable answer. We chose not to do this. We could have authored a question that referred to the Constitution, perhaps something like this:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: the Washington State Legislature should abide by Article II, Section 22 of our state Constitution and pass all revenue bills and budgets with a simple fifty percent majority vote?

But we made no reference to the Constitution at all. Instead, we asked:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: all revenue bills and budgets in the Washington State Legislature should be decided by a simple fifty percent majority vote?

And we found that 36% strongly agreed with this statement, while 23% somewhat agreed — for a total of 59%. We asked about both revenue bills and budgets because in a number of other states (California comes to mind), the right wing has succeeded in changing the rules to require a two-thirds vote to pass budgets.

We have no doubt that were the right wing to succeed in getting Washington’s Constitution changed to require a two-thirds vote to pass revenue bills, they would then move on to trying to impose a similar requirement for budgeting, in order to give themselves more power. They are always seeking more power for themselves. Even if they don’t have legislative majorities, they want to be calling the shots.

With this research in hand, we hereby serve notice to the right wing in Washington — Tim Eyman and the Washington Policy Center included —  that we will no longer allow them to go unchallenged in claiming that voters support their efforts to sabotage Article II, Section 22 of our Constitution.

Majority rule is good for everybody. Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, a Green, a Libertarian, or an independent, you should want to live in a state where the laws get made by the many, and not the few. Our legislative process is already deliberative in nature, and raising taxes is already difficult. We should stick with the plan of government our Founders gave us — which wisely balances majority rule with minority rights — and reject ill-conceived attempts to mess with it.

Washingtonians really, really want a capital gains tax to address education funding crisis

Washington voters believe our public schools are underfunded and strongly support raising revenue at the state level to address the problem, according to a new survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute.

63% of the likely voters who responded to the survey agreed that Washington’s schools need more funding. Impressively, 65% support a capital gains tax on the wealthy to make this happen, with 46% saying they “strongly support the idea”.

This survey of 679 likely Washington State voters was in the field from June 14th-15th, 2016; all respondents participated via landline. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.

The specific language of the school underfunding question was as follows:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: Washington’s public schools are underfunded, and we need to raise state revenue to fully fund them?

These were the answers:

  • Agree: 63%
    • 45% “strongly agree” that we need more revenue for schools
    • 18% “somewhat agree” that we need more revenue for schools
  • Disagree: 32%
    • 18% “somewhat disagree” that we need more revenue for schools
    • 14% “strongly disagree” that we need more revenue for schools
  • 6% answered “not sure” 

The specific language of our capital gains tax question was as follows:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose taxing the capital gains of wealthy individuals to help pay for public schools, colleges and universities?”

These were the answers:

  • Support: 65%
    • 46% “strongly support” a capital gains tax
    • 19% “somewhat support” a capital gains tax
  • Oppose: 33%
    • 9% “somewhat oppose” a capital gains tax
    • 24% “strongly oppose” a capital gains tax
  • 2% answered “not sure” 

Tim Eyman’s wealthy benefactors may not want a capital gains tax, but our research finds that nearly two-thirds of Washington voters likely to vote this November do.

Remember, just recently, Eyman told Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat he expects to remain relevant by riding a backlash to progressive tax reform:

“Everything I’ve been working on for the past 16 years is coming to a head in 2017,” Eyman enthuses. He cited the Legislature possibly imposing a capital-gains tax (Fisher and a Vancouver, Wash., developer, Clyde Holland, are bankrolling him largely to oppose that).

As I’ve written here previously, progressive tax reform is actually Eyman’s worst nightmare. It could be beneficial to his initiative factory in the short term if it spurs people like Holland and Fisher to write checks to fund another lucrative signature drive, but long term, it won’t be — and Eyman knows it.

Case in point: Ten years ago, Eyman friend Dennis Falk qualified an initiative to the ballot to repeal Washington’s estate tax, which is one of the most progressive taxes the state has (it’s only paid by wealthy families). Though the Seattle Times campaigned relentlessly for its passage, voters rejected the initiative overwhelmingly, and the estate tax remains in place. It is still being collected today.

If the Legislature levies a capital gains tax on the wealthy, and Eyman (or anyone else) manages to force a vote on that legislation, our research suggests that voters stand ready to enthusiastically endorse the new revenue and reject any attempt by the right wing to repeal it. Holland and Fisher would be better served not wasting their money trying to overturn progressive tax reform that the people want.

A capital gains tax that funds education is clearly an idea that Washingtonians strongly support. The numbers above show it’s wildly popular.

We’ve now asked this same question two years in a row, and each time, the number of voters who have said they “strongly support” a capital gains tax has been in the forties, while the overall figure has jumped from the fifties into the sixties.

We anticipated that we might see such a jump, given that presidential election years have the highest participation and the most progressive electorates.

Last year, analyzing the results of the identically-worded capital gains tax question, I wrote: “As this was a poll of likely 2015 voters, we believe it actually understates the true level of support for a capital gains tax among next year’s electorate, which is projected to be substantially larger than this year’s.”

Our 2016 research confirms this guess. Washingtonians really, really want a capital gains tax on the wealthy to fund our public schools.

Senate Republicans, are you listening? The people of our great state want new revenue to ensure that we have great public schools, colleges, and universities. Our survey finds that support for a capital gains tax is overwhelming. Voters in every region of the state want this, not just voters in urban King County. It’s time to stop tweeting out misleading charts and make a commitment to meet our state’s paramount duty — amply providing for the education of all Washington’s children.

LIVE from Tacoma: Washington’s PLEO national delegates have been chosen

Good afternoon from Tacoma. Today is the third day of the 2016 Washington State Democratic Convention, the last event in the state party’s caucus and convention cycle for this year. Committee meetings and constituency caucuses were held on Friday along with the gala banquet; the general session was held yesterday along with the state leaders breakfast, and today, the legislative members of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee are completing the state’s national delegation by selecting the PLEO and at-large delegates.

The acronym PLEO stands for Party Leader and Elected Official. Individuals who serve in party leadership roles or are Democrats who hold elected positions of public responsibility (like mayors, state legislators, or tribal councilmembers) are eligible to run for PLEO delegate positions and be elected.

Washington State has a total of twelve PLEO positions this year. Based on the outcome of the May 21st congressional district caucuses (and the April 17th/May 1st legislative and March 26th precinct caucuses before that) nine of those positions go to Bernie Sanders, while three go to Hillary Clinton.

The ballot lists were supplied by the campaigns (who have, under party rules, a right of review) and the final selections were made by the legislative members Washington State Democratic Central Committee (of which I am a member).

Here a complete list of the winners, sorted by vote totals.

PLEOs for Hillary Clinton

  1. King County Executive Dow Constantine
  2. State Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-27th District)
  3. King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles (4th District)

PLEOs for Bernie Sanders

  1. State Senator Bob Hasegawa (D-11th District)
  2. State Representative Noel Frame (D-36th District)
  3. Yakima County Democratic Chair Susan Palmer
  4. Dean McGrath, President of ILWU Local 23
  5. Thurston County Democratic Chair Katrin Nelson
  6. Nicole Willis, Native American Policy Adviser to Bernie Sanders
  7. Patsy Whitefoot, WSDCC (Committeemember for 14th LD)
  8. Sequim Precinct Committee Officer Andrew Shogren
  9. Nickolaus Lewis, Lummi Indian Business Council Member

Congratulations to the above twelve newly chosen members of Washington State’s Democratic National Convention delegation.

WSDCC legislative members must now choose the at-large delegates for Clinton and Sanders. Once these selections are made, the delegation will be complete.

LIVE from Tacoma: Final Credentials report heard; Noel Frame elected Permanent Chair

The 2016 Washington State Democratic Convention is rolling along in Tacoma. In the span of a few short minutes, the Convention heard a Final Credentials Report from co-chairs Javier Valdez and Linda Isenson, then proceeded to elect a permanent chair for the Convention: 36th District Representative Noel Frame.

As of the time that registration closed, 690 Bernie Sanders delegates (and alternates seated as delegates) had signed in, while 270 Hillary Clinton delegates (and alternates seated as delegates) had signed in, for a total of 960 delegates.

701 delegates are required to adopt changes to the state party’s charter (its most important governing document). Because more than that number are present, charter amendments may be considered. However, any charter amendment not receiving 701 affirmative votes will not be adopted.

Following the delivery of the final credentials report, Temporary Chair Noel Frame passed the gavel to Javier Valdez to open nominations for the position of Permanent Chair. Frame was the sole candidate nominated (by Katie Nelson, seconded by Elizabeth Siegel) and was unanimously elected.

Temporary Chair Noel Frame is now the Permanent Chair of the Convention.

The Convention is now moving to the business of selecting at-large electors and alternate electors. Previously, ten electors and ten alternates were chosen at the congressional district caucuses on May 21st (one each per congressional district).

LIVE from Tacoma: Preliminary Credentials Committee report delivered and adopted

We are now into our second hour here at the 2016 Washington State Democratic Convention in Tacoma; and we’ve just heard the preliminary report of the Credentials Committee, co-chaired by King County Committeeman Javier Valdez and Pierce County Chair Linda Isenson.

The report of the committee was as follows:

  • 445 Bernie Sanders delegates have signed in
  • 201 Clinton delegates have signed in
  • 146 Sanders alternates have signed in
    • All will be seated
  • 59 Clinton alternates have signed in
    • 51 of those will be seated

That means we have:

  • 591 Sanders delegates
  • 252 Clinton delegates
  • Total: 843 voting delegates present

Next we will hear the report of the Rules Committee.

Hillary Clinton easily leads Donald Trump in Washington State, new NPI poll finds

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has a double digit lead over presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, according to a survey conducted this week by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute.

The survey asked respondents:

If the candidates for President this fall were Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, who would you vote for?

49% said they would vote for Hillary Clinton, while 37% said they would vote for Donald Trump. 13% said they were not sure.

This survey of 679 likely Washington State voters was in the field from June 14th-15th, 2016; all respondents participated via landline. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.

These results are not surprising, as Washington is considered to be a blue state. Washington voters have supported the Democratic nominee for President in every election going back to 1988. Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry each carried the state, and so did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — twice.

The results of last month’s presidential primary show that Clinton and Trump are also Washingtonians’ top choices to be the 2016 nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties. Hillary Clinton received 52.38% of the vote on the Democratic side, while Trump received 75.46% of the vote on the Republican side.

Republicans are using the primary results to allocate all of their national convention delegates. The Democratic Party opted not to use the primary results, and instead utilized caucuses to determine how many delegates each candidate would receive.

Republicans recently held their state convention in the Tri-Cities and selected their delegates. Most of those delegates personally favor Ted Cruz, but under current Republican rules, are required to vote for Donald Trump on the first ballot.

Democratic congressional-level delegates were selected on May 21st (I was chosen as a delegate for Bernie Sanders from WA-01). The state’s at-large and PLEO delegates will be chosen this weekend by those members of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee who represent a legislative district.

I represent the 45th Legislative District on the WSDCC, so I will be spending most of my Sunday listening to speeches by people who wish to represent our fine state in Philadelphia for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

As a reminder, NPI will be offering live coverage of this weekend’s 2016 Washington State Democratic Convention in Tacoma. Join us here on the Cascadia Advocate to keep track of all of the goings-on live from the City of Destiny. And be sure to join us early next week as well, because we’ll be releasing more results from this survey.

Senator Chris Murphy’s talking filibuster to stop gun violence enters its fourteenth hour

Early this morning, at 8:21 AM Pacific Time, Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut took to the Senate floor to call for action to address gun violence. But instead of merely giving a short speech and then yielding the floor, Murphy courageously began what has now turned into the eighth longest “talking filibuster” in the history of the United States Senate, demanding that the chamber act to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic.

Joined by most of his colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus over the course of the morning, afternoon, evening, and then night, Murphy took questions and comments from colleagues, but did not relinquish the floor.

He has now been on his feet for over fourteen hours.

“Our heart breaks collectively in this country for the citizens of Orlando and as I’ll speak in a moment, in particular in Connecticut,” said Murphy as he began his historic, inspiring filibuster. (See his opening remarks on video here.)

“Our heart breaks for the people of Orlando because we know in a very real way the pain that exists there today, but we also know how that pain is really never ending, how the ripples of that pain are unceasing and unrelenting and they span generations. They span neighborhoods. They span years. Newtown is still putting itself back together, probably will be for a long time, and Orlando the same.”

“I don’t think that we should proceed with debate on amendments to this [Commerce, Science, Justice, and Related Agencies Appropriations] bill until we have figured out a way to come together on, at the very least, two simple ideas that enjoy the support of 80% to 90% of Americans,” Murphy declared.

“Two ideas, two pieces of legislation that would have been potentially impactful with respect to the case in Orlando. That is one piece of legislation that Senator Feinstein has introduced that would simply say that if you are on a terror watch list, that you shouldn’t be able to buy a weapon. Second, in order to make that protection meaningful, you also need to make sure that whenever a would-be shooter buys a gun, he goes through a background check.”

“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together on these two measures, that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful bipartisan way,” Murphy added.

Minutes ago, after hours of taking questions from fellow Democrats and remaining on his feet on the Senate floor, Murphy announced that he had received word that Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid had been in discussions about scheduling a vote on addressing gun violence. Exactly what kind of commitment McConnell made with respect to holding a vote was not described, but Murphy sounded an optimistic note as he summarized the information that he had received.

“If you’re turning in for the night, here’s the game plan: We need a vote tomorrow on gun safety, and we need to win that vote. Stay tuned!” tweeted Senate Democratic caucus staff.

Murphy’s filibuster has become a top trending topic on Twitter; the company even released a map showing where the tweets are coming from.

POSTSCRIPT: Chris Murphy has yielded the floor as of 2:12 AM Eastern/11:12 PM Pacific Time. His talking filibuster stands as the eighth longest in Senate history.

Murphy ended his filibuster by asking everyone to remember Dylan Christopher Jack Hockley and his teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who perished in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Hockley and Murphy were later found together by the police who had to clear the awful crime scene.

As Tom Cleary reported on December 17th, 2012:

Dylan Hockley died in Anne Marie Murphy’s arms

Staring down the barrel of a rifle, Anne Marie Murphy pulled Dylan Hockley close to her, trying to shield him from the hail of bullets that would kill them both.

Dylan, 6, had special needs, his family said Monday. And Murphy was his “amazing” aide, they said. He loved her, pointing happily to her photo on the Hockley’s refrigerator every day.

“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died,” said his parents, Ian and Nicole Hockley.

We have lost enough lives in this country to gun violence. Congress should have acted after Newtown, and Aurora, and Fort Hood, and all the other tragedies of years past, but it didn’t. Congress has failed us too many times.

We’re incredibly grateful to Senator Chris Murphy for recognizing this, saying so, and holding the floor of the Senate for more than fourteen hours straight to demand that our nation’s lawmakers do more than simply observe another pointless moment of silence in the wake of another massacre.

NPI to provide live coverage of the 2016 Washington State Democratic Convention

This weekend, the Washington State Democratic Party will be holding its 2016 Convention, the last event in the party’s biannual caucus and convention cycle, at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center in the City of Destiny.

As we have in years past, NPI will be offering live coverage of the goings-on at the Convention, which will span three days: Friday the 17th, Saturday the 18th, and Sunday the 19th. Each day’s activities will be different:

  • On Friday, the party will hold trainings, workshops, committee meetings, constituency caucus meetings, a traditional gala banquet and reception, and hospitality suites in the late evening.
  • On Saturday, the party will hold a morning breakfast fundraiser, to be followed by the convention general session. Delegates will consider resolutions, charter and bylaws amendments, finalize this year’s platform, and select at-large presidential electors to go to Olympia this December.
  • On Sunday, the legislative members of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) will choose the at-large and PLEO delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Once the selections have been made, the national convention delegation will meet for the first time.

Previous state Democratic conventions were held in Spokane (2014), Seattle (2012), Clark County/Vancouver (2010), Spokane (2008), and Yakima (2006). The Convention was last held in Tacoma twelve years ago for the 2004 cycle.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is the featured speaker for Friday’s gala banquet. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, considered to be the Pacific Northwest’s most progressive senator and a Bernie Sanders supporter, will be the keynote speaker during Saturday’s general session.

Appearances by U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee, among other Democratic elected leaders, are expected.

Multiple NPI projects will carry our live coverage, including this blog (the Cascadia Advocate), as well as In Brief and Pacific NW Portal.

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