BY EMMA EPPERLY
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA – A measure calling for a constitutional amendment and laws that would tackle felon voting, campaign finance, and presidential candidate tax returns came in front of the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations on Friday.
House Bill 1924 would automatically restore voting rights to felons following their release from department of corrections custody. Representative Laurie Dolan, D-Olympia, is the prime sponsor of the bill.
Sam Merrill, a representative of Quaker Voice on Washington Public Policy, testified in support of the bill saying that it would simplify the process of restoring rights to citizens.
James Paribello of the Washington Voting Justice Coalition testified in support of the bill saying, “The Voting Justice Coalition strongly believes in the restoration of voting rights for those persons released from the department of corrections as the next moves towards a more just society.”
HB 1698 would require presidential candidates to release their federal income tax returns 63 days before the primary. Sponsored by Democratic representatives only, the bill would require at least the last five years of tax returns and would allow the secretary of state to redact confidential information.
If candidates do not comply they would not appear on the primary ballot.
Jay Jennings from the Secretary of State’s Office testified that the bill could be seen as an attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution through state law and would probably result in significant legal action.
Carol Butterfield of Seattle read a statement in support of the bill written by Jeffrey M. Feldman, an attorney and professor at the University of Washington Law School. In Feldman’s statement, he implied that this is a legal action that would hold up in court.
Citizen activist Sue Edwards, who in 2017 wrote Initiative 912, which never advanced to appear on a ballot but required the same thing as HB 1698, testified in support of the bill.
House Joint Memorial 4004 asks the United States Congress and the President to call a convention of states to amend the Constitution to limit independent political spending on campaigns.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case in 2010 removed restrictions on spending that “resulted in the unjust influence of powerful economic forces,” according to the memorial. Representative Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, is the prime sponsor. The bill has no Republican sponsors.
Representative Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, noted that there have been a significant number of requests for a convention in the past and one has yet to happen. A request for a convention must be made by two thirds of the states on the same subject for a convention to be called.
Mike Monetta, the national director of Wolf-PAC, an organization working to amend the constitution on the issue, testified in support of the resolution.
Seattle resident Stephen Richter testified in opposition of the bill. Richter said he is fearful that a convention of states would turn into a “runaway convention” making changes not relevant to the purpose of the convention.
Testimony on the memorial continued for almost an hour. HJM 4004 was scheduled for executive session on Feb. 19.
Emma Epperly is a reporter with the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.