Friday, October 15, 2010

Referendum and Amendments

Well, I am kind of proud of myself - I managed to get through all the initiatives just in time for the ballots to come out. Now all I have to do is check with my Voters' Pamphlets (there are two in King County - one for the state, one for the county) and ...

... What's this? There are MORE?

Yep, and here's what I know about them.

The big one you probably have heard about is Referendum 52. Referendums are different than initiatives in that they are referred to the voters by the legislature, as opposed to initiatives that are proposed by the people (They also require half the number of signatures, so they are easier to put onto the ballot). R-52 allows capital improvements to schools, providing environmental improvements, through selling bonds. These bonds are in turn financed by extending a sales tax on bottled water that is due to sunset in 2013.

I refer to such measures as "Cute Puppy" bills - we really need the money for the cute puppy (education, public safety, parks) but we understand if you don't want to fund it, but then we have to toss the cute puppy in wood chipper. This cute, sad-eyed puppy. I mean, we don't get to vote on sweetheart deals or loopholes for corporations, but THIS we get to vote on. Yeah, I think it is a worthy cause and say vote Yes but this particular approach to revenue increase is about at the end of its tether.

Senate Joint Resolution 8225 should have a lot more attention than it is getting, but then it doesn't have some huge financial juggernauts with a vested interest. A Joint Resolution (whether it origins in the House or Senate) is an already-passed bill presented to the people to be voted on. This particular one allows the state to re-figure its debt limits in order to take advantage of federal programs to subsidize the interest on the state's behalf. In other words, the feds are offering to cover some of the vig, and by changing the language, we can borrow more without topping out at the interest limit.

The opposition cries Shenanigans! on this, but similar things have been done on highway projects, bringing them in at a bargain. I am a Yes vote on this.

Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220 allows judges to deny bail to the accused in cases where the crime in punishable by life (including Class A felonies) and there is sufficient reason to fear for public safety. This comes in the wake of the Maurice Clemons shootings and it is specific enough to justify a Yes vote (I would probably have added wording on flight risks). No, I don't know why some of these resolutions are engrossed and others are not.

That's a the state level. Let's look at the King County level. The first three are charter amendments, meaning they are changing the language of the county's charter. Some are major, some are less so.

Charter Amendment 1 changes the Preamble (for those people who get into a really good preamble). It tweaks the language to bring the charter into line with what the council is doing anyway, so when it says "insure responsibility and accountability" it means that this applies to "local and regional governance and services" and when it intends to "preserve a healthy environment' it really means "preserve a healthy rural and urban environment and economy". Hmmm it feels like it pits environment against business and gives the council legal wiggle room to come down on the side of business, I say No on this one, but yeah, it's just the Preamble.

Charter Amendment 2 allows the filing of campaign receipts and expenditures with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission satisfies the requires as stated in the Charter. Sounds like a simplification of now-duplicated effort, so Yes.

Charter Amendment 3 is an oddball. Currently the county heads up collective bargaining with the public safety unions and guilds. This will leave compensation and benefits negotiation in the hands of the county, but move everything else (like working conditions) under control of Sheriff. This sounds ... Odd. The idea of giving the public safety department two masters feels like a recipe for disaster. I'm working on it, but I go for No

Finally, King County Proposition No. 1 is the county-level version of the Cute Puppy proposition. In this case, it is a sales tax increase for public safety, criminal justice, and other government. If it doesn't happen, we're looking at layoffs and reduced services (that would be the wood chipper). The language of the bill is such that only a third of the new revenues are guaranteed to go to the Cute Puppy, even though 70% of the county budget is for public safety. The numbers bug me, but I can muster the meekest of Yes votes on this one.

And THAT finishes all the initiatives, amendments, and referendums that I can vote. Yes, there are more in your local area, including ANOTHER attempt to annex Fairwood into Renton. But if you think I'm walking into that snake pit, you're crazier than I've been.

More later (including a summary sheet for easy voting).