The following are voter recommendations and supporting information for Initiatives to the Legislature, Advisory Votes and Spokane County Proposition 1, on the November 5, 2013, Washington State General Election ballot.
INITIATIVES TO THE LEGISLATURE
Initiative to the Legislature 517
This measure would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures.
vote “YES” is recommended
Given that the petition and initiative process aligns with the spirit of both the U.S. Constitution (1st Amendment) and Washington State Constitution (section 4), it is important that this right of the citizens of our state be protected. The chief impediments to this process are the sheer number of signatures required to place an initiative or referendum on the ballot, the lack of access to the public for signature gathering and the fact that despite having collected the needed number of signatures, many local ballot measures have been prevented from appearing on the ballot due to law suits by opponents (State Supreme Court has rejected such suits at the state level) or local government simply refusing to let the people vote.
- Requires that all initiatives receiving a sufficient number of signatures be voted upon, thereby upholding the right of the people to have their say at the ballot box. Blocking measures that have collected the necessary signatures, whether by law suits or city councils simply refusing to let the people vote, is unconscionable and violative of the democratic process.
- Allows petitioning “inside or outside public buildings such as public sports stadiums, convention/exhibition centers, and public fairs.” If we the people bought and paid for the property, we should be allowed access to our fellow citizens there, so long as we do not impede or infringe upon their ability to access and use that public facility.
- Extends the signature-gathering period. The sheer number of signatures required to get a measure on the ballot favors well-funded causes that can afford to hire professional signature-gatherers. Extending the time allotted for gathering signatures is favorable to grassroots efforts that rely on volunteers.
- Protects the right to collect signatures “on public sidewalks and walkways and all sidewalks and walkways that carry pedestrian traffic.”
- The anti-harassment provisions in this initiative do not add any new laws to the books. They simply extend existing anti-harassment protections to persons gathering signatures in a petition drive.
- Infringes on the right of property owners to limit or ban petitioners from their property, if the property in question is a sidewalk or walkway that carries public pedestrian traffic. This would appear to include “sidewalks” on private property such as in front of Wal-Mart or Home Depot for example. These types of properties are already treated as public places and are subject to public laws. The management has already agreed to subject their property to public laws by providing public access. For example, drunk driving laws apply in the Wal-Mart parking lot, as does the requirement for vehicle registration and insurance. Wal-Mart has already forfeited the right to deny access to their parking lot on the basis of race, religion, what kind of car you drive or whether you have political signs on your car. As long as signature-gatherers do not disrupt the flow of traffic into or out of the building and do not harass or otherwise impede a business’s customers, a public walkway or sidewalk is subject to public laws which under this initiative would include the right to gather petition signatures.
Initiative to the Legislature 522
This measure would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale.
vote “YES” is recommended
The principles of liberty would prefer that a matter like food labeling be handled through pressure placed on producers by consumers. To an extent, this is working in America today as evidenced by some producers choosing to provide organically grown foods that are so labeled.
However, freedom handled irresponsibly will always lead back into bondage. Freedom in America has been abused through both corporate greed, crony capitalism and a lack of vigilance on the part of we the people. Some corporations have grown so big, and now control so much of the food supply, that they can shove pretty much anything down the throats of the consumer with little recourse left to the public.
It is at this point that another principle comes into play – the principle that government exists to protect its citizens.
- From the Bible – Romans 13:3-4 tell us that civil authorities are to be “the minister (servant) of God to thee for good” by being a “terror” to evil works.
- From the Declaration of Independence – The founders of our nation clearly understood that civil governments are instituted to protect the citizens and their God given rights.
- From the U.S. Constitution – Though no authority is granted in the U.S. Constitution for the federal government to control food production or labeling, the 10th Amendment clearly does leave such authority in the power of the states and the people to take up at their discretion.
- From existing Washington State law – The State of Washington already has health and agricultural laws designed to protect the citizens, including laws prohibiting “adulteration” and “mis-labeling” of food. This initiative would merely be building on that foundation.
So do genetically engineered foods present a public health risk that our servant, civil government, should protect us from or warn us about on the label? The answer is that there is no proof one way or the other. There is no data or long term studies to validate the safety of such foods. Over 64 countries require labeling of genetically-engineered foods, countries that our farmers should be wanting to export to.
Genetic engineering in the laboratory can be used to simply accomplish instantly what traditional crossbreeding and hybridization has achieved over many years of breeding. However, it can also be used to combine genetic elements of completely different species of plant, animal or both, such as in experiments that have produced a glow in the dark cat and a cabbage that contains scorpion poison intended to serve as a built-in pesticide. While such extreme examples may not currently be in our food supply, there is currently nothing preventing it.
A Biblical Perspective (should also be of interest to environmentalists)
It should be of interest to those who profess Christian faith and reverence for the Bible as the Word of God and the revealed will of God, that in the creation of all plant and animal life in Genesis chapter one, God said numerous times “let them bring forth after their kind” (paraphrased). This command, spiritual law and aspect of intelligent design, is precisely why men have been able to generate new breeds of dogs through selective breeding of dogs and have generated new breeds of horses through selective breeding of horses, but have never been able to breed a horse-dog through selectively breeding a dog with a horse. While genetic engineering can be used to combine the genetics of “like kind” (the same species), it can just as easily be used to combine “non like kind” as in the example of the glow in the dark cat and the killer cabbage.
You would think that Christians would be highly concerned at the prospect of consuming as food, items that may be violating the command of God that things should only bring forth “after their kind.” The instructions issued by God in His Word are not intended to be religious hoops for men to jump through to appease God. Rather, they are warnings given to keep mankind safe by telling us what is good, wise and safe to engage in as opposed to conduct that violates our creator’s design for us, is inherently dangerous and outside of His hedge of protection.
Genetic engineering carries with it the inherent capacity to go beyond the laws of nature (what is possible through natural breeding) and of nature’s God (the Bible). At a minimum, genetically-engineered items presented to the public as “food” should inform the public whether that item contains genetic components that God and nature meant to be combine or whether science has intervened to combine “dis-like kind” that neither God nor nature intended as food.
NOTE: It is worthy of noting that the campaign in opposition to this initiative now holds the record for the most money ever raised by any initiative campaign in Washington state history, being bankrolled by a handful of out of state biochemical giants to the tune of $21.4 million as of Oct 26. Top donors include Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Bayer Cropscience and Dow Agrosciences. After recently being sued by the Washington Attorney General for campaign disclosure violations, it was revealed that the campaigns top donor, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, is actually financed by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, NestleUSA and ConAgra. Genetically engineered plants and animals are patented property. It is probable that some of the “No on 522” big donors hold many of those patents and could one day hold the patents to much of the world’s food supply.
Initiative 960, passed in 2007, led to the placement of “advisory votes” on the ballot whenever the legislature passes a bill that raises taxes. The following are all tax increase bills that have already been passed. Your vote “advises” the legislature as to whether you want the tax increase to be “maintained” or wish the legislature to “repeal” the bill.
Advisory Vote No. 3 (Substitute Senate Bill 5444)
The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a leasehold excise tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-owned property, costing approximately $2,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.
vote “REPEALED” is recommended
This is a tax increase on tax payers who are already paying a tax for the privilege of paying rent to the state for the use of public land. People who rent publicly owned property are required to pay an excise tax. If the excise tax is higher than what property tax would be if it were privately owned land, then the over payment has been credited back to the renter. Senate Bill 5444 would eliminate that credit for being over charged and thereby put an extra $2,000,000 into the state coffers in the first ten years.
Advisory Vote No. 4 (Senate Bill 5627)
The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, an aircraft excise tax on commuter air carriers in lieu of property tax, costing approximately $500,000 in its first ten years, for government spending.
vote “REPEALED” is recommended
This is simply a tax increase that allows government to grow bigger by imposing an excise tax on air travelers. When the state has to spend money to provide a service to the public, then it is preferable to tax those that use the service. However, it is not contended that the state is providing any essential services necessary for the public to be able to fly on commercial air carriers.
Advisory Vote No. 5 (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846)
The legislature extended, without a vote of the people, the insurance premium tax to some insurance for pediatric oral services, costing an amount that cannot currently be estimated, for government spending.
vote “REPEALED” is recommended
This bill taxes insurance premiums for pediatric oral services that would otherwise be exempt. Government has no place taxing insurance premiums to begin with seeing that it costs government nothing to allow a free people to purchase insurance and pay for their own medical expenses.
Advisory Vote No. 6 (Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971)
The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a retail sales tax exemption for certain telephone and telecommunications services, costing approximately $397,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.
vote “REPEALED” is recommended
The ballot title does not provide enough information to understand exactly what this bill would do and the full text of the bill is incomprehensible without a team of lawyers to track down the dozens of references to sections of the Revised Code that would be amended, instituted, repealed or reimplemented.
However, the primary issue can be found on page 2 of the bill. It appears that in 1983, residential, non long distance phone service, was exempted from retail sales tax. The state has been applying the sales tax to cell phones and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) as those services are capable of long distance calling. This taxing of cell phones and VOIP was rejected by the Thurston County superior court in a 2011 decision. Now the state is afraid that if they fight that decision, they might loose and suddenly all cell phones and VOIP would be sales tax free and the state would loose a revenue source. This bill is an attempt to stop that from happening by stating in the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) that cell phones and VOIP are to pay sales tax.
The real problem with our telecommunications taxing structure can be found on page 2, lines 1 & 2 where it states “There are a vast array of state taxes and other charges on communications services in Washington.” We don’t need a “vast array of taxes and other charges.” The Federal Communications Commission bears the only legitimate burden incurred by government with regard to telecommunications – assigning and regulating the radio frequencies to be used. The only legitimate cost incurred by the state is the 911 emergency system and for that there is an existing telephone excise tax that is appropriate.
The recommendation? Get rid of the “vast array of taxes and charges” first, then reduce the overall size and scope of government to its proper role, reduce the sales tax accordingly and then we can entertain a discussion of whether to apply sales tax to all telecommunications equally.
Also of interest – Page 1, lines 8 & 9 of the bill, state that this bill “declares an emergency.” What’s with that? The only presumption is that something about this bill violates existing state law in a manner that is only allowed when a state of emergency exists.
Advisory Vote No. 7 (Engrossed House Bill 2075)
The legislature extended, without a vote of the people, estate tax on certain property transfers and increased rates for estates over $4,000,000, costing approximately $478,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.
vote “REPEALED” is recommended
The crux of this bill appears to be the 2005 case of “Estate of Hemphill v. State Department of Revenue Estate Tax” (see text of bill on page 1 starting at line 11). It appears that language in the Washington estate tax law ties it to the federal estate tax laws of 2001, but Washington was assessing the estate tax according to provisions of pre 2001 federal estate tax laws. The Hemphill Estate argued that if the correct post 2001 federal laws had been used, the estate’s Washington State tax would have been much less, if any at all. The Hemphill Estate won and Washington State has been hindered ever since from raiding family estates and filling the public treasury to the degree desired.
House Bill 2075 would appear to implement language that would apply the pre 2001 federal laws, thus preventing estates like the Hemphill Estate from escaping. House Bill 2075 is to be implemented retroactively back to 2005 so that no one escapes the tax man – not even the dead.
The estate tax is one of the most heinous of taxes. It is a second taxing of wealth that was already taxed by one means or another during its creation. More importantly, it violates the God ordained institution of family, interposing between parents and children and preventing what God placed into a family from remaining in that family. For this, the civil authorities that are charged with being our ministers for good (Romans 13:4) are answerable to God.
This bill is estimated to take $478,000,000 out of family estates in the first ten years.
Once again, this bill includes language “declaring an emergency.”
Spokane County Proposition 1
Levy to Protect Fairchild Air Force Base
vote “REJECTED” is recommended
At the root of this matter are seven mobile home parks (190 units) that lie within what the Air Force deems an “Accident Potential Zone” (APZ) near Fairchild Air Force Base. Spokane County is proposing a property tax increase for the next nine years in order to raise the funds to reimburse the residents that would be displaced. The Air Force is not demanding this action. This is being initiated solely by the county.
When the Air Force was deciding where to site KC-46A tankers earlier this year, Fairchild lost 4 points out of 100 possible due to the residential population within the APZ. Some are voicing concern that if there are budget cuts and/or base closures in the future, these mobile home parks could count against Fairchild at that time and possibly bring about its closure. However, there is no guarantee, or even a public statement from the Air Force, that Fairchild would remain open if the mobile homes were removed or that it would close if they are not.
The primary principle in this matter is private property rights and the proper use of eminent domain. Eminent domain has its proper place when private property stands in the way of essential public infrastructure, like a new bridge, or widening a congested highway. Eminent domain would even be applicable if the Department of Defense decided that Fairchild Air Force Base was integral to the nation’s defense and needed to be expanded and the mobile home park was needed for air base expansion. However, in the case at hand, we’re talking about local government taking private property purely on the basis of a potential safety risk to the residents and the possibility that it could affect the local economy.
Regarding safety – Both the air base and mobile home parks have been there for a long time, so the “accident potential” is nothing new and is something the residents were okay with when they located there. We’re not talking about a new risk coming along and presenting an eminent threat. This is risk on the same par as your choosing to drive an older vehicle that doesn’t happen to have airbags. If the same principles are applied, then the government should confiscate your vehicle and tax your neighbor in order to buy you a new car. I care about people’s safety and would be happy to donate to a charity drive to help those people relocate if they want to, but it’s not the proper role of government to tell people where they can or cannot live and to take their property because they might be safer somewhere else.
Regarding local economy – I certainly want to see the air base jobs remain in the community, but since when is government endowed with the authority to take private property for the sake of creating or preserving jobs? If we grant government the power to do this, then we license government to come along next time and take your home to make room for a new Walmart, or for anything else that might be deemed a money maker for the community.
After the mobile parks are razed, it is expected that the area will be rezoned as industrial. But has anyone considered this – land that is zoned industrial is by nature much more valuable than land in a residential zoning. Mobile homes are by nature… well… mobile – they can be moved. Has anyone considered that if the land were simply rezoned industrial, buyers might come along and offer to buy out the mobile parks, move the mobile homes to inexpensive residential land, then build industrial facilities on the more valuable industrial land? Is it possible that we’re in such a hurry to violate private property rights, abuse eminent domain and raise taxes that we’re missing a free and easy solution?
Produced by: Robert W. Peck
Chairman: Constitution Party of Washington
The views expressed are my own and not necessarily those of the Constitution Party of Washington.
Special thanks to Karen Murray for input and assistance with this voter guide.