Monday, October 22, 2012

The Political Desk: Initiatives

Let's start with the most painful part, since it is at the start of the ballot and likely to dissuade others from proceeding.

I've been a critic of the initiative system in our state for some time. Created with an eye to encouraging more direct democracy, it instead sometimes feels like handing a paint gun to a child in the depths of a sugar rush. We get some good ideas, a lot of bad ones, and some that arcane to the point of no return.

And it is made event more confusing by mudging together Initiatives, Referendums, Amendments, Propositions and Advisory Votes (oh my).

Let's get down to cases.

I-1185 is the return of the Magic Pony initiative, which requires that tax increases require two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval. The old initiative that does this is going away, and thi\e purpose of this is is to keep the state from having too much money to spend. Because, you know, forced austerity has worked out SO WELL for the past few years. The promised result is, with less money, the state will be more budgetary responsible. The real result we reduce the amount of money the government can spend, and then complain about how it can't do anything. I vote NO, but it will probably pass, given that everyone is afraid of taxes.

I-1240 is another repeat, for Charter Schools, which has gone down three times so far. I would be more pro Charters if I had a good handle on whether they were effective in the other forty-some states where they are. So far, some are, and some aren't, which leads me to believe that they might work with proper oversight. Unfortunately  the lack of oversight is something that is promoted as a positive thing for Charter Schools. I remain dubious, and say NO.

R-74 is not a Initiative but a referendum. Initiatives are new laws proposed by the citizenry, which gathers sufficient signatures to put them on the ballot. Referendums are a REACTION to laws passed, while citizens seek to overturn them by popular vote. Just so you know the difference. Washington already PASSED and SIGNED INTO LAW a marriage equality law, and those who don't like it are trying nullify it. So you are voting to confirm something that the guys your elected to represent your will have already voted on. Confused? Welcome to our more direct form of democracy.

Did I mention the REIN FIRE RANCH?
R-74 recognizes same-sex marriage. I support this idea. In fact, I not only support it, I will point out that an ideal place for your wedding reception is the REIN FIRE RANCH, operated by Rich Kaalaas, who was my boss for a while. Nestled in the "serene Sugar Loaf Mountain Valley", a short drive from Renton, the REIN FIRE RANCH is a great place for your reception, regardless of the gender of the participants. That's REIN FIRE RANCH.

Oh, and yeah, R-74 should be APPROVED.

I-502 sounds like another reason to not let the citizens make up their own laws. It decriminalizes marijuana and allows it to be licenced and regulated. Despite my curmudgeonly nature, I'm in favor of this, because our drug war has been a pretty big bust (Heh. you see what I did there). The history of marijuana regulation shows nothing but the frustration of trying to enforce prohibition, and it is time to start making the change. This version has real law enforcement people on its side, so I'm paying attention.

Yes, the Feds will come down on this like a ton of bricks, but you know, that's what we need if we're going to figure out how to get the war on drugs under control. Left to its own devices, it just keep sprawling, and this administration has shown that when folk push, it will listen. So push. YES on 502.

And these were the easy ones. From here on in it gets dicey. I freely admit I could be wrong on these, but they have terminology that threatens to throw you on the first curve.

Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution (ESJR) 8221 is a great example of illegible legibabble. It reads like the terms of service you have to agree to before playing a video game. You hit "Agree" but you wonder if two big guys named Louie are going to come over and take your cat. Nearest I can figure out this is to reduce the debt (that's good), but it does so by rejiggering some definitions of what counts as state revenues (that's bad). From the Voter's Guide, those against it are concerned that the process will increase the interest rates, actually giving us LESS money to work with. I think. I will admit to confusion, and in the process, I will REJECT it.

SJR 8223 allows the Washington universities (UW and WSU) will give them more freedom to invest public fund in private companies. Because private companies are safe and secure places to put our money., Ummm, let's REJECT this one as well.

Advisory Vote No. 1 - ESB 6635.  This is arcane beyond belief. This is an advisory vote, which means it is more of a poll question.And as a result, we DON"T get for/against argument in the voter's guide (thanks, guys). But if I understand it correctly, This is about closing a loophole, ending a tax break. So yeah, I think its a good idea.

BUT, it uses the phrase "This tax increase should be:" and that's what has me fired up a bit. We make it damned near impossible to raise taxes (see I-1185 above), and then define everything as a tax increase. BRILLIANT!  Sorry, this is not a tax increase. This is closing a loophole. Vote to Maintain.

Advisory Vote No. 2 - SHB 2590. Same thing as before. This is NOT a tax increase so far as I can tell, despite the language. This is delaying the expiration of a tax. This is loopy tax logic, but if it doesn't pass, it encourages everyone who has to pay something to the government to call that a tax increase and challenge it. What's next? I made more last year, so I have to pay more, and its a tax increase? Vote to Maintain this tax on its current schedule.

And finally, we have one at the County Level:
King County Proposition No. 1 Regular Property Tax Levy for Automated Fingerprint Identification System. (Oddly, the description of the Levy is longer than the title, which I did not expect). This is a re-upping of a system by which we share fingerprint information with other communities through a central database. I think its a good thing (Some may differ). I vote APPROVED.

Believe it or not, this is the worst of it. It gets easier after this.