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“Warning Label” Bill Would Bias Initiative Elections

“Warning Label” Bill Would Bias Initiative Elections

March 20, 2015

Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) has proposed a bill that seeks to improve the information voters receive about statewide initiatives by putting the financial impact in the ballot title. During his testimony this week in front of the House State Government Committee he said, "putting that information [fiscal impact statement] up front in the ballot title … is a very prudent way to treat these initiatives. It provides the policy explanation and the financial impact right up there providing that transparency for voters."

It's no surprise that Tim Eyman, the prolific initiative sponsor in Washington was there to testify. He provided a number of compelling arguments against the bill including:

  1. Would create prejudice for some ballot titles
  2. Allows government intervention into the initiative process
  3. Could be used to sway voters
  4. Proponents and opponents of an initiative measure already adequately explain costs to voters
  5. The fiscal impact statement would be limited to the ballot tile where no other context is provided
  6. No judicial review of the fiscal impact
  7. You can view the entirety of Eyman's testimony here.

Eyman's testimony took an unexpected turn when he questioned the motives behind the bill, stating that some Senators may support the bill because they believe it will be damaging to liberal initiative ideas.

I testified on the bill and expressed concerns because the initiative process should be available to all citizens equally regardless of their ideology.

The fiscal impact statements mandated by this bill will be created by the Office of Financial Management (OFM), and the last time I checked, they have been under liberal control for the last 30 years.

Rep. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), Chairman of the House Committee seemed to be souring to the bill proposal when he said, "There has to be a responsibility of allowing those who [write] the pro- and con-statements to raise the issues."

Resources:

SB 5715 Including the contents of fiscal impact statements in the ballot title for certain initiative measures.

Tim Eyman's Testimony

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