|Initiative proponent/Dark Lord of the Sith Tim Eyman appears in front of the Washington Secretary of State’s Office|
This past January, for the second time in two years, a bill has been filed with the Washington State legislature to amend the State Constitution, removing the provisions allowing for citizen initiatives and referendums. If passed by the state legislature, the measure would be sent to the voters for their approval at the next general election. Citizen initiatives are the process by which citizens and nongovernmental organizations can directly propose legislation. If the proposed legislature receives a certain number of signatures (a number equal to 8% of the voters in the previous gubernatorial election), the proposal is then voted on by the people of the state, completely bypassing the legislature. Referenda require fewer signatures, but the proposed legislation must still be voted on by the legislature.
The bill, proposed by state Senator Ken Jacobsen, would remove the entirety of Article II, Section 1 of the Washington Constitution, as well as other sections that acknowledge the initiative and referendum process. The initiative process is constantly being challenged by lawmakers, and this bill is just the latest debate in a long battle in a number of states, mostly in the West, where the use of initiatives is common. Proponents of citizen initiatives argue that they are vitally important to ensuring the people have a say in their own government, while opponents argue that they interfere with the functioning of the legislature and government.
The initiative process has often been seen as the purest form of direct democracy, giving the most voice to individual citizens. Tim Eyman, intuitive guru and anti-tax crusader, had harsh words for Jacobsen and his initiative, as well the sponsors of other bills that would regulate the signature-gathering and initiative-filing process. Eyman calls the bill a “legislative jihad”, and claims that Ken Jacobson “is the most honest elected official on this issue. He’s openly pushing to take our rights away from us. The sponsors of the other anti-initiative bills…hide their opposition and seek to impose unneeded, costly requirements on citizens so as to effectively repeal the initiative process with a stealth “regulate to death” strategy.” [Read more…] about The Legislature Strikes Back: Citizen Initiatives in Washington State