Washington’s State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 yesterday to strike down a law passed by voters which requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature or a vote of the people to increase taxes. The decision specifically overturns a 2010 initiative, but comes after two decades of voters passing the same basic initiative and seeing it repealed by legislators.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for state lawmakers to increase taxes.

The court, in a 6-3 ruling, decided a state law requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to increase taxes is unconstitutional.

“Our holding today is not a judgment on the wisdom of requiring a supermajority for the passage of tax legislation,” the court said in its majority opinion.

Stonewall Jackson Bird had never supported a Tim Eyman initiative. But earlier this month the Bellingham progressive rode to Olympia to speak on behalf of Eyman’s newest effort, Initiative 517, the “initiative on initiatives.”

“Stoney” Bird had been a corporate attorney in London. He became disenchanted, moved to the Skagit Valley, and later to Bellingham. He says that for a long time he “wanted to find a way to use my corporate legal experience for something important.”

Last year he found his cause: stopping coal trains.

Read more at the Seattle Times

For years, the courts have said, based on the law as it exists today, that there are certain issues the people can decide by local initiative and certain issues they cannot (red-light cameras not OK, banning local casinos OK, banning coal trains not OK, etc).

But up to this point, advisory votes on issues have occurred and been permitted because they simply let the people express a non-binding opinion that the local government can ignore or accept. Since advisory votes don’t interfere with local governments’ legislative power, they’ve been OK … until yesterday.

Michigan’s Constitution allows citizens to initiate legislation and also repeal existing Public Acts by gathering a required amount of signatures within a prescribed time frame and putting the proposed legislation (or rejection of current legislation) on a statewide ballot for a vote of the people.

Citizens are also allowed to amend the Michigan Constitution in a similar manner. The required signatures for each effort are based on a percentage of the total votes cast for governor in the preceding election. In 2012 there were six ballot proposals put before voters through this process.

Read more at the Voice of Small Business Blog

Texas: I&R in El Paso

Tue, Feb 26 2013 — Source: El Paso Times

The ongoing litigation and petitions about the demolition of City Hall and construction of the ballpark raise important questions about initiative and referendum petitions. Regardless of their viewpoints on the merits of the issues, El Pasoans should understand the initiative and referendum process.

Initiative and referendum petitions are methods to allow direct citizen participation in the legislative process at state or local levels. Despite the fundamental nature of the right to vote, the right to an initiative or referendum is not a federally guaranteed right, nor is it guaranteed under the Texas Constitution.

The powers of initiative and referendum are considered powers reserved to the people by charter.

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Previous efforts to get pro-initiative measures on the ballot in Washington have been dodgy at best. The last one to make it through with a full Senate vote was 19 years ago in 1994. This term seems to be different with Tim Eyman’s Initiative 517 and other proposals progressing through committee and being divvied up into 4 easily-digested bills.

The ease with which I-517 has progressed has something to do with the new Senate majority. Chairwoman Pam Roach (R-Auburn) has been a supporter of I-517 and pushed for its passage out of committee.

Here’s one small measure of the difference the new leadership in the Senate has made – sometime soon, the full Senate likely will vote on bills that buttress the initiative process, rather than throwing acid on it. They might even include this year’s biggie, Initiative 517, the so-called ”˜initiative on initiatives’ from ballot-measure promoter Tim Eyman, which would extend the time for signatures to be gathered and establish the right of signature gatherers to canvass in public places.

A committee in the Washington state Senate is considering a proposal to increase the amount of time that initiative campaigns have to collect signatures.

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman testified Thursday that the larger window of time would aid citizen-led campaigns that may not have the financial resources to fund an army of signature collectors. He said signature collectors also have to work during challenging winter months and during a time when other political campaigns are not active.

Read More at: The Seattle Times

Jerry Brown’s nonstop self-accolades for his alleged genius in bringing California back to solid ground are rather dubious. But it is with pensions that Brown’s self-congratulation is most incoherent. While he congratulates himself for achieving moderate pension reform via the Legislature last summer, his appointees continue their anti-reform rampage on the state Public Employment Relations Board.

A ruling by a state Public Employment Relations Board administrative law judge against voter-passed Proposition B is part of an effort to make it harder for citizens to place pension reform initiatives on the ballot in the future, San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith charged Wednesday.

The city attorney told reporters that he would go to court to defend the pension reform ballot measure, which was passed with two-thirds support last June. He said the City Council gave him that authority last year.


Read More at San Diego’s: 10 News

Three paid signature gatherers apparently committed extensive fraud while collecting support for two Washington initiatives, elections officials said Wednesday.

The Secretary of State’s Office said many of the 8,000 signatures submitted by the collectors were invalid. The problematic filings were linked to a measure that would extend the time for initiative signature collection, and another proposal that would require companies to label genetically modified food.

Both initiatives are still valid because the remaining signatures were sufficient to get the measures certified.

Read more here: The News Tribune


Yesterday, the Washington Secretary of State’s office reported that Initiative 517 had passed the obstacle of signature validation on the 346,906 signatures submitted on petitions. The measure was certified as having 272,425 valid voter signatures after the state performed a check on a random sampling of 3% of the signatures. More than 78.5% of the signatures in the sample were verified giving the initiative a cushion of more than 30,000 valid signatures over the legal requirement.

California’s League of Women Voters is hosting an event to discuss possible reforms of the state’s initiative and referendum process this Friday, Jan. 25, at a library in Carlsbad, California. The League’s longstanding opposition to the initiative process seems to be expressed in the title, “Do We Have to Take This Much Initiative?”

The Washington State group, Voters Want More Choices, has set up a website to promote Initiative 517. The site,, carries the tagline, “I-517 puts the citizen back in the citizens’ initiative,” and features various resources, such a video of a recent TV interview and story on the measure.