We get it. Many state legislators aren’t particularly thrilled with the way Tim Eyman uses the initiative process to undercut their legislative vision.
It’s time they grow up. These seemingly constant efforts to neuter the initiative process is getting old.
This year a proposal, which has already been approved in the House, takes another shot at making it tougher to qualify initiatives for the ballot. House Bill 2552 would require paid signature gatherers to register with the state, pass a criminal-background check, complete a state-authorized training program and carry a state-issued ID card when soliciting signatures for any ballot measure. Those who favor the measure see it as a way to get more volunteers to gather signatures.
Perhaps it will. Or perhaps it will simply drive up the cost for those paying signature gatherers. Those collecting signatures aren’t making big bucks, so it’s doubtful they will jump through all the legislation’s hoops unless they get a big, fat raise. Nor do they embark on signature gathering as a profession. These are generally people who are trying to earn a little extra cash.
Democracy loses here.
Yet, HB 2552 was approved 71-26 in the House, which means it had bipartisan support.
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, blasted the 14 GOP representatives who backed the proposal (including Reps. Maureen Walsh and Terry Nealey) in a memo.
“Republicans in the Legislature have diligently defended the initiative process from legislative assault by Democrats going back as far as 2003. Every year, the Democrats propose eliminating the initiative process, increases in filing fees and imposing ridiculous new burdens on signature collection. Each and every time, the Republicans have stood firm against the Democrats’ arrogance,” Benton wrote.
We concede it is a bit unseemly to pay folks to serve as the cogs driving the initiative process that was once purely the domain of grassroot movements.
It is, however, far more troubling to see lawmakers continue to try to silence those who disagree with their approaches to governing. In the past, lawmakers have pushed proposals to limit financial donations to initiative campaigns and set limits on how far petition gatherers must stand from buildings. And it has even floated a proposal similar to HB 2552. That effort includes mandates to be photographed, fingerprinted and go through a criminal-background check.
This type of approach is an affront to free speech. All ideas, good or bad, should at least have a chance to be heard.