Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Taking the Initiatives

Though I regularly skew into the political, I don't particularly think of this as a political blog. Most of the ones I know, regardless of their place on the left/right, blue/red, up/down scales, just require too much care and feeding. You have to be upset about something ALL the TIME. It's a hungry beast to feed - we've seen it happen on talk radio and 24/7 punditry, where the players are reduced to drug addiction and sexual perversion. We can keep it from happening here.

But we do have an election coming up, and, like many in Washington State, I got an absentee ballot (I'm a big proponent of going to the polls, but I know I'm one of a dying breed in that regard). I won't be here on election day, for reasons that I will eventually make clear.

So I grit my teeth and with grim determination steer this fragile craft into the storm-tossed waves that are local politics.

The big heat, of course, is on the Initiatives. Originally an attempt to put "the people" more in charge of the system by allowing them to influence law directly, it has, as with all things that touch the grimy surface that is politics, become overrun with special interests, pet causes, and pundits intent on "delivering a message".

A lot of that message consists of "Who do you hate?" Here's the short form:

I-330 - We hate Lawyers!
I-336 - We hate Insurance Companies!
I-900 - We hate the Government!
I-901 - We hate Smokers!
I-912 - We hate Ourselves!

A little more detail, please? Sure, step into the funhouse. . . .

I-330 and I-336 are twisted, cojoined, mutant siblings, both intend on addressing high malpractice insurance costs. I-330 wants to do it with caps on damage awards, and is supported by insurance companies (who have been using some of their doctors as sock puppets) I-336 wants to put more scrutiny on insurance rate increases, create supplemental malpractice insurance, and put a few more teeth into the idea of bouncing bad doctor. This one is being heavily financed by the lawyers, as the pro-I-330 ads keep drilling home (It's GOT to be bad - Lawyers want it! Booo, Hiss!).

Actually, the pair of initiatives are massive tomes of fine print, even by initiative standards. I-330 runs 7.5 pages and reads like its been written by your insurance company. I-336 runs 12 pages in the Voter's booklet and reads like its been written by your lawyer. These are presented to a voting public that has trouble understanding its home heating bills, and you're expecting rational thought. Yeah, that's going to work. Isn't this why we have elected officials?

Here's the part neither side tells you - It's not an either/or. You can support both of these ideas (and I'm partial towards the ideas of I-336, though I'd rather see it as a law as opposed to a initiative). Or you can vote them both down. I'm really for the later. NO on both of this beastly pair.

I-900, on the other hand, is a pretty neatly written initiative, and I've been looking for the trap door in it, and I can't find it. It calls for the setup of a performance audits in state government (actually, we have them, but this calls for stronger ones, with some teeth). Its pretty clear. It tells how much money we should spend on it, and where the money comes from. The guys putting this one together have a track record (much of it bad) on populist initiatives, but I can't find the flaw in this one - it just reeks of good government. I'm saying YES on this one.

I-901 sends all smokers to Yakima. OK, no it doesn't, but it does prohibit smoking in buildings and vehicles open to the public and places of employment, including areas within 25 feet of doorways and ventilation. As someone who smoked the occasional cigar in the nineties (but, to use the common excuse, I didn't inhale), I'm pretty tolerant of smokers, as long as I'm upwind of them, and for the most part the smokers I've encountered have been pretty considerate (Have I ever mentioned that the Dog & Pony, our usual Alliterate hangout, is non-smoking?). While the opposition to this initiative has been pretty bizaare (the anti- I-901 yard signs announce that this would mean New Taxes, which I can't see - it makes me wonder if the signs were left over from a previous campaign), I think its that type of overdoing it that Initiatives are notable for. I say vote NO (and watch, I'll be caught in the elevator with a heavy smoker tomorrow).

And finally there is I-912. Sigh. I-912 has a history that sounds like a Marvel Comic Book, and deserves its own writeup. For the moment, let's just say NO and I'll go into the tale of woe and intrigue with its own separate posting.

More later,