Tim Eyman is back, and once again, he has a bunch of bad ideas all rolled into one.
Eyman, who has made a for-profit business out of putting initiatives before Washington voters, announced this week he was submitting signed petitions for the first initiative of the year, I-517, to the state this week. He calls I-517 the “Protect the Initiative Act.”
Eyman and I-517 supporters claim the initiative is needed to protect signature gatherers for petitions from harassment.
As evidence, they cite an incident at a Walmart in Renton from nearly a decade ago, where a signature gatherer for I-864 was surrounded by opponents to the proposal, which would have cut property taxes by 25 percent. Critics who gathered near the signature gatherer told passers-by the measure would have devastating impacts to libraries, fire departments and other public services.
Apparently, Eyman thinks the First Amendment right of free speech doesn’t apply to people who oppose his ideas, as I-517 would mandate a 25-foot protection zone against people that signature gathers might find intimidating.
Keeping Eyman’s troops safe inside their bubble is not the most objectionable part of I-517, however, it’s the extension of time that would be given to those who collect petition signatures, which would extend the deadline for an extra six months.
Our view is that Washington’s citizen initiative process, as currently structured, makes it difficult to get proposals on the ballot. But that’s a good thing.
There were 457 initiatives to the people that were filed with the state in the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, including such questionable proposals such as testing candidates for public office using a 10th-grade standard, limiting campaigns to 14 six-hour days, abolishing school levies, and repealing seat belt laws. (Earlier proposed initiatives have covered everything from beer on Sunday proposals to the color of margarine.)
In 2011, 81 initiatives were filed. Can you imagine what the ballot would have looked like if most had found ample signatures to place before voters?
Eyman’s for-profit initiative factory should not be given a six-month extension to gather signatures.
We elect public officials to devise, debate and pass our laws. And if the public’s passion for an initiative cannot be adequately stoked within six months, the proposal itself should wait for another day.