Initiatives Heading to the Ballot

Evan Manvel

The cover story for the May 29th issue of the Seattle weekly The Stranger was "Fuck the Vote: The Initiative Process Is Turning Washington State into a Destitute Shithole."

Goldy writes:

Anybody who dares to defend the modern initiative process as a net plus for Washington State is either a total fucking idiot or a morally reprehensible piece of shit who puts their own selfish self-interest ahead of the commonweal.

Honestly. I mean it.

... "The process has basically become the province of the well-financed, and it's as true of SEIU as it is of Costco," I-1149 organizer Philip Dawdy told me, stating the obvious.

Here in Oregon, we've got a host of measures likely to hit the ballot this fall. As Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian reported in today's paper:

So this is meant to be an open thread.

Which initiatives do you like? Which do you dislike? And what do you think of our initiative system?

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    We should all pray that Mannix misses and his measure repealing the estate tax doesn't get enough signatures. If it does we have to spend a lot of resources defeating it (which we will) and if he doesn't it may lose him the ability to get funding in the future. Nothing like raising and misspending a lot of money to make people think twice about giving him more.

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    I wonder how the burden of out-of-pocket medical bills impacts the average estate vs. the estate tax.

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      It depends. If the decedent dies in the hospital and was on medicare, then the government pays everything. I was the personal representative for my father's estate and I kept expecting huge medical bills. He died of a subdural hematoma (essentially a huge brain hemorage that cause all of the higher functioning portions of his brain to die while letting his heart, lungs and gut keep working). He spent a week in the ICU, had brain surgery, and had been on chemotherapy for bone marrow that hadn't been working for several months. Medicare paid all of the medical bills and there was essentially nothing left for his estate to pay as far as medical.

      I know another fellow had a farm of over 200 acres in the Canby area. He sold the land instead of waiting for death. Had he waited, his kids would have had to sell the land in order to pay the estate taxes. This was a working farm and one of the kids was raising cattle, growing hay, as well as several tenant farmers. I think one reason was that he figured his kids wouldn't be able to pay the estate taxes without selling the property anyway, so he might as well sell and then just leave cash to the kids. This fellow also had a lot of rental property in Oregon City. I think he sold all of those too.

      The one son who was ranching moved to eastern Oregon. Fortunately a fellow bought the land as an investment and is allowing the tenant farmers to stay on.

      So it depends. Where you die, how you die, how old you are when you die, if you have non liquid assets when you die. All of these determine if the estate tax or medical bills will put a burden on the estate.

      I know one thing though, I will vote to get rid of the estate tax in Oregon. I'm not a big fan of someone doing all the work to build a business (be that ag, real estate, manufacturing or in the service industry, etc.) and then forcing the kids who want to take over the business to sell off the business or its assets in order to pay Oregon or the federal government when their parents die.

      There's a farmer I know of in Virginia who will have to do just that when his mother dies. He'll have to sell part or all of the land they're farming in order for her estate to pay estate taxes. That will put him and his family out of business.

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    Goldy's article is absolutely right. Ever since the Supreme Court repealed the ban on paid signature gathering, the initiative system has simply become another avenue for the wealthy and powerful to further enrich themselves by screwing over the rest of us. Find an awful idea that can be couched in superficially appealing terms and spend all the money you need to get it on the ballot and pass it. Our state's revenue system is hopelessly f*#ked up, in large part because of dumb right-wing initiatives on cutting taxes and increasing spending that duped at least 50.1% into voting for it.

    We need a massive overhaul of the system to (a) make it a lot harder to amend the state constitution by initiative (Say, 200,000 signatures and 3/5ths majority vote), (b) make it easier to get grassroots statutory changes onto the ballot (say, 50,000 signatures), and (c) make it really freakin' expensive (I hope prohibitively so) for campaigns to hire signature collectors. We can't get rid of paid signature collectors, but the state can regulate it as a profession and set minimum wage and hour standards. Say, require that a paid signature collectors in Oregon be a full-year state resident who has completed a full background check, 100 hours of special training, and maintains liability insurance and bonding against misconduct. Require that any campaign that hires professional signature collectors must commit to a 40-hour-a-week contract for a minimum of 13 weeks at a minimum wage of $200 per hour, and prevent early termination of the contract for anything other than criminal misconduct. And require that each paid signature collector commit to one and only one campaign at a time. And require initiative sponsors to commit to either all-paid or all-volunteer signature collection.

    Volunteers, on the other hand, would remain unregulated and free. I figure that any initiative with genuine grass-roots support will be able to get 50,000 signatures based on the efforts of a few hundred volunteers who are out there because they genuinely care about the issue.

    As for the ones I like this time around: legalizing pot (even though the "findings of fact" language is a little embarrassing from a drafting standpoint) and repealing the kicker (even though it doesn't go far enough). I'm not sure yet about gill netting; I'll need to read more on that one. The real estate tax and inheritance tax measures only make the revenue problem worse. Also, the Wood Village Casino is quite possibly the most blatantly corrupt and self-serving initiative in the history of this state, and that's saying something.

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