Friday, October 16, 2015

Political Desk: Initiatives

Initiatives in Washington State are citizen-proposed laws. An individual comes up with a law, makes sure it is in a legal format (for example, initiatives are supposed to do only one thing, so "Outlaw tax increases AND give me a pony" is right out, but "Outlaw tax increases SO they give me a pony" is OK. Then get enough signatures (Eight per cent of the vote total for Governor in the most recent election) to put it on the ballot, and the people vote on it. Naturally, as with anything that has rules, the rules may be gamed, and we see a huge influx over the past few years of corporate moneys, big donors, and paid initiative gatherers.

And we have people in the Initiative Business, such as political character Tim Eyman, who pops up with awful regularity alongside backers with deep pockets and populist "give me a pony" initiatives. One of his favorite attacks is to make it harder for the government to raise money, and these initiatives are usually unconstitutional but still effective enough to pour about six feet of sand into the mechanisms of government.

And for this service Mr. Eyman is rewarded, such that his financial dealings have already been brought up on irregularities, as previous donors want to know what he's done with the money they gave him. And now there is a massive case brewing against him. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has popped up irregularities to the tune of $380,000 being kicked back from donor funds into Mr. Eyman's account in the 2012 election. This skimming is so odious that the PDC has asked the State Attorney General's office to step in, since the PDC cannot assign penalties big enough to be more than a rounding error on the theft. (appropos of nothing, the State AG makes $151,718 salary, so I'm sure there's not going to be any problem clearing a citizen initiative-maker who makes big bucks by profiteering our elected process).

Which gets us to the latest Eyman Initiative, I-1366, which will once again force the government to get 2/3rds approval before raising taxes (and by raising taxes, this means closing loopholes or doing anything else that will actually, you know, raises revenue). Previous attempts have been found these plots to be mostly unconstitutional, so this time, the wrinkle is that the state is mandated to CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION to allow this, OR there will be a mandatory revenue reduction. Now, whether this form of extortion is constitutional in itself is up for debate. Early signs is that its not, but they still allowed it on the ballot because we have a high bar to deny initiatives, though a lower bar to cut them down once they become law. Of course, legality is completely beside the point as far as the Initiative usiness is concerned - they want to get a win, then cash the paycheck. Actually, they just want to cash the paycheck, and getting a win sets them up for the NEXT election.

Judged on its merits, I-1366 is one more sledgehammer initiative to show that government is bad and cannot function by making it impossible for it to function. I am going to go with a big fat NO on this one.

Now, there is ANOTHER Initiative the year which is much saner, and as a result has not gotten any attention at all. I-1401. It makes trafficking in certain endangered animal species (and their component parts) a class C felony. To which I have to say, you mean it ISN'T ALREADY?. It is an attempt, bankrolled by Paul Allen (his motto "Big Money in the cause of Good") to reduce poaching and smuggling by empowering the local levels and reducing the market for that material. So I'm good with it. Vote YES.

More later.