Confusing tale of I-940 moves forward to November ballot

Aug 28, 2018, 1:24 PM | Updated: Aug 29, 2018, 10:24 am

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Washington State Supreme Court. (Harvey Barrison, Flickr)

(Harvey Barrison, Flickr)

The Washington State Supreme Court has nixed months worth of effort by an unlikely alliance — law enforcement advocates and police reform activists — saying they passed legislation without following the law.

RELATED: Initiative poses constitutional concerns

According to De-Escalate Washington, the group that organized police reform Initiative 940, the mood around the organization is “determination and confidence.”

“We are disappointed that the Court ruled this way but, all along, our campaign has been ready for November,” said Monisha Harrell, co-chair of De-Escalate Washington and Board Chair of Equal Rights Washington. “The public has asked for these changes. We look forward to talking about the issues across the state.”

The story of I-940, and its companion bill HB 3003, is a bit confusing, even for Olympia. I-940 proposed a series of police reforms in Washington state. But to make the initiative pleasing to all parties, organizers worked with law enforcement representatives to amend it — even though it had not passed the Legislature yet. Lawmakers’ plan was something that had never been done in Washington — pass an amendment to an initiative that had not been approved yet. HB 3003 was passed to modify yet-to-be passed I-940. The bill was designed to go into effect one day after I-940 became law, if lawmakers passed it eventually (which they did hours later).

It’s okay if you’re a bit confused. Basically, it’s the legislative version of putting the cart before the horse. The state was sued by initiative activist Tim Eyman and state Senator Michael Padden. The Supreme Court ruled in their favor on Tuesday.

Lawmakers only had three options to begin with: approve an initiative; reject it; or amend it, in which case voters have to make the final decision between the original initiative and the amended version. Since lawmakers went with a fourth option, the Supreme Court knocked it down.

The decision voids HB 3003. I-940 is now headed to the November ballot, by itself, for voters to decide.

“The work we did with law enforcement to reach a consensus agreement on police reform was tough, honest, and groundbreaking, and we are disappointed that the Court took the position it did,” said Tim Reynon, co-chair of De-Escalate Washington and a Puyallup Tribe of Indians council member.

I-940 proposes a series of changes, such as de-escalation and mental health training for officers; first aid training for police; it removes de facto immunity; requires independent investigations of police; among other changes.

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Confusing tale of I-940 moves forward to November ballot