Washington Legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning the investment of Family Medical Leave and Long-Term Care Accounts

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 would allow funds in the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account to be invested as provided by law. The amendment is the first measure certified to appear on the statewide ballot in Washington this November.

Currently, the Washington Constitution prohibits the state from investing funds into stocks or other methods of investment, limiting investment capabilities of the state to government and corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. Some other funds have been made exempt from that constitutional restriction, including the following:

  1. public pension and retirements funds;
  2. industrial insurance trust funds; and
  3. funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

In Washington, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds (66.67%) vote in each chamber of the Washington State Legislature during one legislative session.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 was sponsored by Republican Senators John Braun and Mark Schoesler and Democratic Senators Steve Conway and Mark Mullet. The resolution was introduced on January 13, 2020. It passed in the Senate on February 19, 2020, by a vote of 45-3 with one Senator excused. The measure passed in the House on March 6, 2020, by a vote of 96-1 with one Representative excused. The four no votes the amendment received in the state legislature came from Representative Frank Chopp (D) and Senators Bob Hasegawa (D), Doug Ericksen (R), and Mike Padden (R).

The Washington State Legislature may refer constitutional amendments or state statutes to the ballot during the 2020 legislative session, which is set to run through March 12, 2020. Citizens may collect signatures to place proposed laws on the 2020 ballot as Initiatives to the People (ITPs), for which 259,622 valid signatures are required by July 2, 2020. Veto referendums targeting the repeal of bills passed in the 2020 legislature can also qualify for the ballot through signature petition drives.

A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years between 2000 and 2018, of which, 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.