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Six initiatives have been certified by the Washington Secretary of State, all aimed at reversing laws passed by the state legislature in recent years. Since Quaker Voice is focused on state decision-making, the fate of these initiatives is well within our scope of action. We explain the actions we have taken and are planning to take in an update on our home page.

Full official information on each of the initiatives, including action from the legislature, is available at leg.wa.gov through the “bill information” link in the left-hand column. Be sure to search for “initiative” rather than “bill.” We have taken the descriptions we use here from the Seattle Times coverage. Another set of short descriptions is available from Ballotpedia.

What is a ballot initiative?

The initiative provisions in the state constitution allow direct citizen participation in state policymaking, rather than leaving it entirely in the hands of elected officials. Initiatives were a Progressive era innovation in representative democracy and because of that history are more common in Western states than other parts of the country; 24 states make provisions for them. An initiative proposes a law directly through a minimum number of signatures of voters.

In Washington, state legislators have three choices when an initiative has been certified by the Secretary of State as meeting the signature requirement: they can adopt the initiative as law, they can let it go to the ballot with an alternative proposed, or they can do nothing and simply let it go to the ballot for a yes/no vote.

What is happening with this year’s initiative proposals?

The leadership of the majority party in the legislature decided to hold hearings on three of the six 2024 initiatives. This created the possibility that they would be voted into law by the legislature itself. The leadership has not yet issued a statement explaining its decision about these hearings. Our understanding is that they expect the initiatives would pass if they appeared on the ballot. A major motivation to hear them now is to avoid bruising media campaigns preceding the November election that would unproductively inflame divisions. Adopting them as laws now would also allow an earlier opportunity for the legislature to reinstate what the initiatives have displaced. A good unofficial description of the reasons appears here.

The three hearings were held during the week of February 26, in front of joint House/Senate committees:

  • Initiative 2081 allows parents to review K-12 instructional materials and other records and require notification of medical care provided to their children. Because it undermines safe haven provisions that are part of current school procedures to protect vulnerable students, Quaker Voice submitted written testimony opposing this initiative. On March 4, both House and Senate passed the initiative. On March 5, the bill was filed with the Secretary of State. It will be effective on June 6, 2024. 
  • Initiative 2111 prohibits the state, counties, cities and other local jurisdictions from imposing or collecting income taxes. Because Quaker Voice has long supported progressive taxation in the state of Washington, Quaker Voice signed in against this initiative. On March 4, both House and Senate passed the initiative. On March 5, the bill was filed with the Secretary of State. It will be effective on June 6, 2024. 
  • Initiative 2113 removes restrictions imposed by the state legislature on when police can legally engage in vehicular pursuits. Because this change endangers bystanders in order to protect property, Quaker Voice signed in against this initiative. On March 4, both House and Senate passed the initiativeOn March 5, the bill was filed with the Secretary of State. It will be effective on June 6, 2024. 

What about the other three initiatives?

The leadership of the majority party in the state legislature has decided not to act on any of the other three initiatives. They will therefore appear on the ballot in November, to be voted “yes” or “no” by Washington voters.

  • Initiative 2109 would repeal the state’s new tax on capital gains on certain investment profits of more than $250,000 annually.
  • Initiative 2117 would repeal the state’s 2021 Climate Commitment Act, which requires oil refineries and other major greenhouse gas emitters to pay for pollution permits and reduce emissions over time.
  • Initiative 2124 would allow people to opt out of a .58% payroll tax that funds a long-term care insurance benefit of up to $36,500 per person.

The capital gains tax and the Climate Commitment Act were priority bills for Quaker Voice when they were passed. We are aware that we will need to work for them again – by advocating for a no vote on Initiatives 2109 and 2117 — in the months before the November election, this time with a much wider set of decision-makers. Over the coming months, the Board will develop plans for doing this in ways that are appropriate to our Quaker approach to legislative advocacy. This is a new sort of challenge for us as a community. Your suggestions are welcome, either through your working group or directly to .

 

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