Voters in Washington will decide six statewide ballot measures on November 3: two binding measures and four nonbinding tax advisory questions. This year is the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot will not feature an Initiative to the People (ITP), a citizen-initiated state statute for which groups collect signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The only citizen-initiated measure on the 2020 ballot in Washington is Referendum 90.
The Washington State Legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 5395 (SB 5395) in March 2020. SB 5395 was designed to require comprehensive sexual health education in public schools. Opponents of the bill, organized as “Parents for Safe Schools,” collected signatures to place SB 5395 on the ballot and are advocating for a reject vote on the measure, which would repeal Senate Bill 5395. A vote to approve the referendum would allow SB 5395 to go into effect.
The bill is on hold pending the result of the election.
Parents for Safe Schools said, “Reject Referendum 90. Stop the early sexualization of our kids. Materials to meet the new state standards will include graphic sexual subject matter. These are decisions that should be left to parents and local communities. … [The bill is] a costly mandate at a time when school budgets are being cut. State and local budgets are facing massive deficits which threaten funding for basic programs.”
Washington State Senator Claire Wilson (D), a sponsor of the SB 5395, said, “Some people hear the words ‘sex education’ and mistake the focus of the curriculum, which is health and safety and is age-appropriate for each grade level. This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators. It’s about helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior.”
Senate Joint Resolution 8212:
The state legislature referred Senate Joint Resolution 8212, a constitutional amendment, to the 2020 ballot. The amendment would allow the Washington Legislature to invest the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account into stocks or other methods of investment.
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:
- public pension and retirements funds;
- industrial insurance trust funds; and
- funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.
Advisory Votes 32, 33, 34, and 35:
Advisory Votes 32-35 were automatically referred to the ballot as required under Initiative 960, which was passed in 2007. I-960 requires an advisory vote to be referred to voters concerning any law passed by the legislature that creates or increases taxes or fees. The outcome of the question is nonbinding and does not result in a new, changed, or rejected law. Rather, the vote serves to advise the legislature whether or not to maintain or repeal a bill they passed.
Thirty-one advisory votes have been on the statewide ballot in Washington between 2012 and 2019. Voters voted in favor of advising the legislature to maintain 10 of the bills. In the other 21 cases, voters voted to advise the legislature to repeal the bill in question.
Twelve tax advisory votes were on the ballot in 2019. Voters voted to advise the legislature to maintain three bills and repeal the other nine.
Together, the four advisory vote questions on the 2020 ballot represent bills increasing state revenue by an estimated $2 billion over 10 years.
Summaries of the measures are below:
- Advisory Vote 32 concerns Senate Bill 5323, which was designed to levy a tax on certain carryout bags provided by retailers.
- Advisory Vote 33 concerns Senate Bill 5628, which was designed to levy a tax on heavy equipment rentals.
- Advisory Vote 34 concerns Senate Bill 6492, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate and reduce certain surcharges.
- Advisory Vote 35 concerns Senate Bill 6690, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate on commercial airplane manufacturers.
A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years from the 18-year period between 2000 and 2018. 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.