Tagwashington

Stories about Washington

Arizona is 7th state to order in-person school instruction, others schedule openings

On March 15, Arizona became the seventh state to require at least part-time instruction for certain grade levels. Oregon will join the list in two weeks, and Washington will join in three.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R-Ariz.) March 3 executive order requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction took effect March 15. High schools and middle schools in high-transmission counties are exempt from the order. Parents can still keep their children in virtual classes.

On March 12, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an executive order requiring public elementary schools to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. The order also requires public schools to open for grades 6-12 by April 19. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also said on March 12 he will soon issue an emergency proclamation requiring elementary schools to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5. Schools must provide older students the same by April 19. As of March 15, Inslee had not signed the proclamation.  

All three states had previously left reopening decisions to school districts.

Nationwide:

  • Four states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M.) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.H., Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction
  • Two states (Ariz., W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
  • Thirty-nine states left decisions to schools or districts


Washington Supreme Court rejects recall petition of county sheriff

A petition seeking to recall John Snaza from his position as sheriff of Thurston County, Washington, was ruled to be legally and factually insufficient by the Washington Supreme Court on February 11, 2021. This court ruling ended the recall effort.

The recall effort started after the sheriff’s office released a statement on June 24, 2020, saying “it would be inappropriate for deputies to criminally enforce” the state’s mandate to wear a mask in public places. Recall supporters said the sheriff’s statement was impeding the efforts of state and city governments as well as emergency and hospital officials to protect the public. Snaza said it was his intent to educate people about the law rather than arrest them.

The recall petition was initially approved for circulation on July 29, 2020, by Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton. Snaza filed an appeal against that ruling with the state supreme court. If Snaza’s appeal had been rejected, recall supporters would have had 180 days to collect 23,027 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

Two other sheriff recall efforts were appealed with the Washington Supreme Court in 2020. Both appeals were rejected, and the recall efforts were allowed to circulate petitions.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

Additional Reading:



Washington initiative signature deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called Initiative to the People (ITP) in Washington—or indirect state statute—called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL) in Washington. In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) was December 31, 2020. For an ITL to be taken up by the Washington State Legislature and potentially put on the ballot in 2021, proponents needed to submit 259,622 valid signatures to the Secretary of State by December 31.

A total of 216 ITLs were filed by 14 sponsors, of which, 135 were withdrawn. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. The filed initiatives concerned a range of topics including taxes, sex education, sports betting, and affirmative action.

If campaigns submit enough valid signatures for an ITL, the initiative goes before the Washington Legislature at the next regular legislative session in January. The legislature must take one of three actions.

1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916; 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Besides Initiatives to the Legislature, Washington citizens may initiate Initiatives to the People. These initiatives are direct initiatives, meaning that groups collect signatures and once enough valid signatures are collected, election officials place the measure directly on the next general election ballot for a vote. Initiatives to the People (ITP) may be filed targeting the 2021 ballot beginning on January 4, 2021.

In Washington, the signature requirement for citizen initiatives is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election. Initiatives to the People and Initiatives to the Legislature require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor.

The signature requirement for Initiatives to the Legislature lags behind by one year. For example, based on the gubernatorial election of 2020, the signature requirement for Initiatives to the People and veto referendums will change in 2021 while the requirements for Initiatives to the Legislature will remain unchanged until 2022.

Ballotpedia projects that the signature requirements for 2021 ITPs and 2022 ITLs will increase from 259,622 valid signatures to 324,516 and signature requirements for veto referendums will increase from 129,811 to 162,258 based on votes cast for the office of governor in the 2020 election (4,056,454).

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved and 44% (27) were defeated.



Signature deadline for 2021 Initiatives to the Legislature in Washington is Dec. 31

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) is December 31, 2020. Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. For an ITL to be taken up by the Washington State Legislature and potentially put on the ballot in 2021, proponents must submit 259,622 valid signatures to the Secretary of State by December 31.

Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature at the regular session set to begin on January 11, 2021. The legislature must take one of three actions.

  1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916, of which, 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme court.

As of December 4, 2020, 183 ITLs had been filed by 13 sponsors, of which 117 had been withdrawn. The proposed initiatives concern topics including taxes, sex education, sports betting, and affirmative action.

Besides Initiatives to the Legislature, Washington citizens may initiate Initiatives to the People. These initiatives are direct initiatives, meaning that groups collect signatures and once enough valid signatures are collected, election officials place the measure on the next general election ballot for a vote. Initiatives to the People (ITP) may be filed targeting the 2021 ballot beginning on January 4, 2021.

In Washington, the signature requirement for citizen initiatives is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election. Initiatives to the People and Initiatives to the Legislature require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor.

The signature requirement for Initiatives to the Legislature lags behind by one year. For example, based on the gubernatorial election of 2020, the signature requirement for Initiatives to the People and veto referendums will change in 2021 while the requirements for Initiatives to the Legislature will remain unchanged until 2022.

Ballotpedia projects that the signature requirements for 2021 ITPs and 2022 ITLs will increase from 259,622 valid signatures to 324,516 and signature requirements for veto referendums will increase from 129,811 to 162,258 based on votes cast for the office of governor in the 2020 election (4,056,454).

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved and 44% (27) were defeated.



Washington Governor Inslee appoints new chief of staff

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) appointed Jamila Thomas as his chief of staff on Nov. 5. Thomas succeeds former Chief of Staff David Postman, who served from December 2015 to November 2020.  

According to a press release, Inslee said of Thomas, “Jamila brings a deep understanding of state government. She is a strategic thinker with extensive policy experience, the ability to build coalitions and a comprehensive understanding of budget and personnel management.”

Prior to becoming Governor Inslee’s chief of staff, Thomas served as chief of staff to Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and former state Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (D). She was also a policy advisor for the House Democratic Caucus and former Gov. Gary Locke (D).

A chief of staff leads executive administrations and implements the governor’s agenda. The role is both a managerial and advisory position, although specific duties vary by each administration. Gubernatorial chiefs of staff are largely responsible for managing the governor’s schedule, assisting in forming and implementing a policy agenda, and overseeing the governor’s staff. 

To view a list of all gubernatorial chiefs of staff, click here.

Additional reading: 



Washington Supreme Court sets timeline for appeal of recall petition against Seattle councilmember

The Washington Supreme Court will consider the appeal of a recall petition against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant before the end of the year. Sawant filed an appeal in October after a superior court judge certified that four of the six grounds in the recall petition against her were legally sufficient to move the recall forward to the signature-gathering phase. On November 12, the Washington Supreme Court issued a timeline for the appeal: Sawant’s opening brief is due to the court by November 23, petitioners’ response is due on December 3, and Sawant’s reply is due by December 10. The court expects to rule on the appeal by January 7, 2021.

Sawant represents District 3 on the Seattle City Council. Though the office is officially nonpartisan, Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative Party and upon her election in 2013 was the first socialist elected to Seattle city government in 97 years. She was first elected to the council as an at-large member in 2013, when she beat four-term Democratic incumbent Richard Conlin 50.9% to 49.1%. When the council transitioned to district-based voting at the 2015 election, Sawant was re-elected to the council as the member for District 3. She won re-election to the District 3 seat in 2019 by 4.1 percentage points—51.8% to challenger Egan Orion’s 47.7%. A total of 42,956 votes were cast in the 2019 District 3 election, with Sawant receiving 22,263 votes, Orion receiving 20,488, and the remainder being cast for write-in candidates.

The recall against Sawant was initiated on August 18, 2020, when lead petitioner Ernie Lou submitted a formal recall petition to the King County Elections Office. Before a recall petition can move to the signature-gathering phase, Washington law dictates that a judicial review must find legally sufficient grounds for recall under the Washington Constitution. On September 16, King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers certified four of the six grounds for recall contained in the petition. Sawant subsequently appealed the decision to the Washington Supreme Court. If Sawant’s appeal is unsuccessful, petitioners would be required to gather over 10,700 signatures from registered voters to get the recall on the ballot, which equals 25% of the total votes cast in the last District 3 election held in 2019.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading:



Republican Kim Wyman wins third term as Washington Secretary of State

Incumbent Kim Wyman (R) defeated Gael Tarleton (D) in the election for Washington Secretary of State, winning a third term as the state’s top elections administrator.

Wyman was first elected to the office in 2012 and won re-election over challenger Tina Podlodowski (D), 55% to 45%, in 2016. Preliminary results suggest Wyman won by a narrower 54% to 47% margin this year.

Wyman’s win continues Republicans’ winning streak in Washington Secretary of State elections. No Democrat has won election to the office since 1960.



Washington State Supreme Court overrules recall petition against Seattle mayor

On October 8, 2020, the Washington State Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling which allowed a recall effort against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D).

The supreme court’s unanimous order read, “The allegations in this case are deeply troubling and our review requires that we treat the factual allegations as true. Nevertheless, after carefully considering the issues presented, the court concludes that the recall charges presented in this case are factually and legally insufficient.”

Elliott Grace, Harvey, Alan Meekins Jr., Courtney Scott, Leah Solomon, and Charlie Stone organized the recall effort.

The Washington Constitution allows for the recall of elected officials if they violate their oath of office or “in commission of some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office.” To put a recall on the ballot, recall supporters have 180 days to collect valid signatures equal to 25% of the total vote for the office in the last regular election.

Organizers in the recall effort against Durkan began filing paperwork on June 15, 2020.

King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts ruled on July 10, 2020, that petitioners could begin gathering signatures. Roberts dismissed six of the seven charges as insufficient for a recall election. The second charge was found to be sufficient grounds for the recall effort to move forward. Recall organizers had until January 6, 2021, to gather about 54,000 valid signatures in order to put the recall election on the ballot.

The second charge of the recall petition said, “Mayor Durkan endangered the peace and safety of the community and violated her duties under RCW 35.18.200, Seattle Charter Art. V, Sec. 2, SMC 10.02.010A, and her oath to uphold US Const., Amends. 1 and 4, Washington Constitution, Art. 1 Sec. 3-5, when she failed to institute new policies and safety measures for the Seattle Police Department when using crowd control measures during a public health emergency.”

The state of Washington selects its state supreme court justices through nonpartisan elections. Of the nine members on the supreme court, five have been appointed by Democratic governors to fill vacancies on the court.

The terms of justices Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Charles W. Johnson, and Debra Stephens will expire on January 10, 2021. Additionally, Justice G. Helen Whitener was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Justice Charlie Wiggins’ retirement in March of 2020, so she will face retention election this year. The four seats are up for nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020.

Additional Reading:



Whitener, Serns compete in Washington State Supreme Court election

Incumbent G. Helen Whitener and Richard Serns are running in the special general election for Washington State Supreme Court Position 6 on November 3, 2020.

Whitener was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee (D) on April 13, 2020, following Justice Charles K. Wiggins’ retirement. Whitener was previously a judge on the Pierce County Superior Court, on the Washington Board of Industrial Appeals, and an attorney in private practice.

Whitener said that the main issue in the election is experience. She said, “I would not get on a plane with a pilot who just got his license and hadn’t gotten some flying under the guidance of a well-seasoned pilot… That might be a bad analogy but it is very similar to what we’ve been discussing.” 

Richard Serns is a former school administrator. Serns responded to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey and said his professional experience includes working as a superintendent of schools, as an adjunct law school professor, as the lead negotiator for collective bargaining agreements, and as a Title IX, non-discrimination, anti-bullying, and anti-harassment compliance officer.

Serns said the constitution does not require prior experience in law to serve on the court, and that “sometimes an outsider can bring a new set of eyes and that can be helpful to deliberations.” He also argued that his experience as an administrator gives him the skillset for a position on the court: “The skillset is listening carefully, asking probing questions, research, research, research, deliberate, confer and write,” he said. “All of those things I’ve had extensive experience at.”

Whitener is one of five justices on the nine-member Washington State Supreme Court appointed by Democratic governors to fill vacancies.

Additional reading: 



What statewide ballot measures will Washington voters decide on November 3?

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.

Referendum 90:
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.

Additional Reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/Washington_2020_ballot_measures