Washington Legislature approves affirmative action initiative and sends car tab initiative to the 2019 ballot before adjourning

The Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2019 session on Sunday, deciding the fate of two proposed Initiatives to the legislature: (a) I-1000, an initiative allowing affirmative action, and I-976, an initiative limiting vehicle license fees.
Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature. The legislature must take one of three actions:
  • The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  • The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  • The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
The state legislature approved I-1000 largely along party lines with all votes in favor coming from Democratic legislators. I-1000 was approved by a vote of 56-42 in the House and 26-22 in the Senate. In the House, one Democrat, Brian Blake of District 19b, joined all House Republicans in voting no. Two Senate Democrats, Mark Mullet of District 5 and Tim Sheldon of District 35, joined the 20 Senate Republicans in voting no. Senator Guy Palumbo (D-1) was excused from voting.
Initiative 1000 explicitly allows the state of Washington to implement affirmative action laws and policies while continuing to ban discrimination and preferential treatment. Washington Initiative 200, approved by voters in 1998, banned discrimination and preferential treatment based on certain characteristics, such as race, sex, and age. I-1000 would also allow the state to “remedy discrimination against, or under-representation of, disadvantaged groups as documented in a valid disparity study or proven in a court of law.”
The legislature adjourned without acting on Initiative 976, meaning that initiative will appear on the 2019 ballot for voter approval or rejection. Initiative 976 is the first citizen initiative to be certified for the ballot in 2019 in any of four states that allow citizen initiatives in odd-numbered years.
Initiative 976—sponsored by Tim Eyman and frequently referred to as the $30 Car Tabs Initiative—was designed to do the following:
  • Limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds to $30 except for voter-approved charges;
  • Base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price;
  • Limit certain taxes and fees related to transportation; and
  • Repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
Eyman’s groups, Permanent Offense and Voters Want More Choices, are leading the campaign in support of I-976. Leading the opposition campaign is No on I-976, operated by the Permanent Defense PAC sponsored by the Northwest Progressive Institute.
Also on the 2019 ballot in Washington is a constitutional amendment that would authorize the Washington State Legislature to pass bills addressing the succession of powers and duties of public offices during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies.
Nine states out of the 21 with a process for initiated state statutes have an indirect process for them. In Utah and Washington, there are both direct and indirect initiatives. Initiative 1000 was the first indirect initiative to be approved by the legislature in 2019. In 2018, four indirect initiatives were approved by state legislatures in Alaska and Michigan.
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