Ballot measures could have significant impact in Washington and beyond

Nov 4, 2013, 1:22 PM | Updated: Nov 5, 2013, 10:11 am

This year’s election doesn’t have a ton of high profile races, but those on the ballot in Washington state and some cities could have a big impact, both locally and nationally.

I-522 would require the labeling of certain foods and seeds containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Opponents have broken the record for the most money raised by an initiative campaign. “No on 522” raised over $21 million to defeat the measure, much of that coming from food companies like Coca-Cola, General Mills and Nestle USA, as well as biochemical companies like Monsanto.

The labels on packaged processed foods would read “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering.”

Genetically engineered raw agricultural commodities to be labeled conspicuously with the words “genetically engineered,” the Secretary of State’s office reports.

While it would affect many foods, a number of others would be exempt, including alcoholic beverages, certified organic foods served in restaurants or in food service establishments, and foods from animals that have not been genetically engineered, regardless of whether they’ve been fed any genetically engineered food.

The measure would take effect July 1, 2015. After several failed efforts, including one in California last year, the outcome of the Washington vote is being viewed as an important harbinger of things to come for the rest of the nation as more states consider similar legislation.

Supporters argue consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, while critics call the proposed measure flawed, incomplete, and inaccurate.

I-517 would significantly expand protections for signature gatherers and the areas where they could legally gather signatures for ballot measures.

Under the proposed initiative, signature gathering would be legally protected on public sidewalks and walkways and all sidewalks and walkways that carry pedestrians, including those in front of entrances and exits to stores, and inside or outside public buildings, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

It’s become an extremely contentious issue with opponents arguing signature gatherers would trump private property owners, allowing them to harass customers trying to enter or exit a store, go inside sports stadiums, and even public school events.

The measure would also increase the amount of time for gathering petition signatures, increasing the chances of qualifying an initiative or referendum for the ballot.

Another hotly contested measure is SeaTac Proposition 1. The initiative would raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 for certain hotels, rental car, shuttle, and other airport related businesses.

Critics have argued many businesses won’t be able to afford what amounts to a 63 percent wage increase and will either cut jobs or be forced to close altogether. Backers argue it’s a fair measure that helps low-income workers make a living wage.

Amidst a national labor movement to increase the minimum wage nationwide, the SeaTac measure is viewed as an important first step in planting seeds for an eventual nationwide push.

In Seattle, voters will decide whether to change the way City Councilmembers are elected. Currently, Seattle voters cast ballots for all nine councilmembers, who each represent the entire the city.

Under Charter Amendment No. 19, seven of nine councilmembers would by elected by geographic district with two others elected by all voters.

Supporters say it would give city residents a specific representative that could best advocate for the specific needs of their community while still maintaining two “at-large” members.

Critics argue it would end up pitting one neighborhood against another, fracturing the city further.

The change would be phased in over the next several years. The five councilmembers elected in 2011 City Council elections would serve their present terms ending on December 31, 2015, and the four councilmembers elected this year would serve two-year terms, also ending on December 31, 2015. The two at-large councilmembers would be elected to two-year terms ending on December 31, 2017, and the seven district councilmembers would be elected to four year terms ending on December 31, 2019. Thereafter, all members would be elected to four-year terms.

MyNorthwest.com and KIRO Radio 97.3 FM will have complete coverage and all the election results Tuesday evening beginning at 8 p.m.

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Ballot measures could have significant impact in Washington and beyond