MYNORTHWEST NEWS

State lawmakers approve changes to how voter initiatives appear on ballots

Mar 7, 2022, 11:25 AM

I-976, car tabs fees eyman, ballot initiatives...

Tim Eyman advertising for $30 car tabs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A bill looking to change how ballot initiatives are presented to voters has been approved by the state Legislature.

State looks at changes to how ballot initiatives are presented to voters

After it’s signed into law, SHB 1876 will make it so that any ballot initiative that would impact taxes, fees, or “cause a net change in state revenue” will include language that tells voters the exact effect the measure would have if it’s approved.

That would have the description on the ballot, described in SHB 1876 as a “disclosure,” appear in a format emphasizing the direct impact of the initiative, detailing how it would increase or decrease funding for specific services. For initiatives that would affect the state’s general fund, the disclosure will have to list the top three services covered by it in the state budget.

Drafting disclosure statements for ballot initiatives will fall to the state Attorney General’s Office, in consultation with the Office of Financial Management and “other state and local agencies as needed.”

Those who testified in favor of the bill — including the League of Women Voters and the Northwest Progressive Institute — detailed how “information from well-funded campaigns only tell half the story, denying them the opportunity to look at the price tag for ballot measures.” Opposition was led by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, who claimed it would insert a “biased description” into initiatives “with no judicial oversight.”

Washington weighs significant changes to how (and when) it votes in 2022

Many of Eyman’s own proposed initiatives have come with hefty cuts to state services. Most recently, his proposal to reduce Washington car tab rates to a flat $30 rate would have slashed nearly $2 billion in state revenue over a six-year period, as well as $2.3 billion from local governments. That initiative was approved by voters in 2019, but was later struck down by the state Supreme Court, with justices ruling that Eyman’s ballot title was “deceptive and misleading.”

SHB 1876 was passed by the Legislature last week, and will next go to Gov. Inslee’s desk for a final signature.

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State lawmakers approve changes to how voter initiatives appear on ballots