Public hearings on initiatives reveal legislative Democrats’ disdain for voters

Public hearings on three of the Six Initiatives to Fix What’s Broken in Washington were held at the State Capitol this week.

Many attendees at the hearings came away convinced that those Olympia majorities showed disdain for the public — and for the initiative process itself

Public hearings on three of the Six Initiatives to Fix What’s Broken in Washington were held at the State Capitol this week. The three hearings took place before joint legislative committees, made up of State Senators and Representatives from the relevant policy committees. The committees were chaired by members of the current majority Democrat caucuses.

Many attendees at the hearings came away convinced that those Olympia majorities showed disdain for the public — and for the initiative process itself.

The WAGOP believes that all Six Initiatives should have received public hearings, as described in Article II of the Washington State Constitution. Instead, Olympia Democrats agreed to hold hearings for the three initiatives that they feel will limit their money-grabs from WA taxpayers the least.

Here’s what happened during the three hearings that took place. And why attendees left with such bad impressions.

Initiative 2111 (No Income Tax)

Nearly 90% of those who registered an opinion before the public hearing on I-2111 support the initiative’s ban of any tax based on personal income in this state. As most Washingtonians know, the people here have voted against a state income tax 11 times before.

WAGOP Chairman Jim Walsh
WAGOP Chairman Jim Walsh

“Initiative 2111 is designed to do one thing and that is to codify into law the state’s longstanding tradition of not having a tax based on personal income,” said WAGOP Chairman Jim Walsh, who is the author all Six Initiatives, during his testimony to the joint legislative committee.

“It’s been drafted narrowly so that it only applies to personal income, it does not apply to any other sort of tax, and also it is designed really to support the good fiscal traditions of this state,” added Chairman Walsh, who represents the 19th Legislative District in the State House.

“Washington State does not want an income tax,” opined Steve Gordon with Concerned Taxpayers of Washington State. “People do not necessarily feel that they are getting value for their tax dollars. Crime is up, education is down, homelessness and addiction deaths have skyrocketed while affordability for the basic family has moved out of reach…Taxpayers are waking up to the fact that the problem is not more money for government it is a lack of policy.”

A single father from the Olympic Peninsula may have summed up popular opinion best: “I’m here to offer my behemoth support for I-2111,” said Eric Pratt. “I keep hearing people saying this measure does nothing, which is interesting because if this bill does nothing, what it’s doing is protecting us from something — something in the future. What we want is protection from future taxation.”

Although the hearing on I-2111 moved more efficiently than the other two, it still left dozens of concerned Washingtonians waiting to testify, when it reached the 60-minute time limit. The frustration on their faces was repeated and amplified in the next two hearings.

Initiative 2081 (Parental Notification)

Parents are the primary stakeholders in their children’s education and beyond. Not public-school bureaucrats. Not the government.

Even so, “Democrats burned roughly 30 of the 60 minutes in the hearings for both the parental rights and police pursuit initiatives by asking pre-canned and dilatory questions designed to restrict testimony from the public,” said Rep. Travis Couture, R, Allyn. “That is a sad disrespect to the people of Washington.”

Still, a mom with a suicidal child managed to deliver compelling testimony in support of I-2018. “Neither her counselor, her teacher, or her administrator told her father and I that she intended to kill herself,” said Joy Gjersvold. “We saved our daughter, not the school system.”

Again, the hearing for I-2081 ran out of time with several hundred people waiting to testify.

And yet, Olympia Democrats seem to have heard the strong support for I-2081 loud and clear. In a Seattle Times opinion piece published the same day as the hearing, two of their leaders conceded the policy points—and tried to claim victory by supporting them.

“Initiative 2081 is intended to protect parents’ right to know what their children are learning in school, obtain student records and receive written notice allowing them to opt their kids out of some classroom activities. About 90% of the initiative is already common practice or state law,” wrote Jamie Pedersen, the majority floor leader in the Washington Senate, and Laurie Jinkins, speaker of the Washington House of Representatives.

The WAGOP believes the victory belongs instead to the 400,000-plus Washingtonians who signed I-2081.

Initiative 2113 (Reasonable Police Pursuit)

Frustrations reached their highest point in and around the hearing on I-2113, which restores the state’s traditional “reasonable suspicion” standard for vehicular pursuits by law enforcement officers.

“Over 400,000 Washingtonians signed the pursuit initiative, many of them came to the public hearing hoping to be heard on how the increase in car thefts and crime in general has impacted them since the restrictions on pursuits took effect a few years ago,” said Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn. “Instead, they were met with what appeared to be an orchestrated effort by the majority party to limit public testimony.”

Sen. Lynda Wilson
Sen. Lynda Wilson

“This whole thing was staged, and then we finally got to hear from the public, and we go to remote testimony,” added Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver. “We’ve got a room full of people who drove from all over the place to be here, and we go to someone in New York City – that’s just not computing with me.”

Chairman Walsh, who again testified as the sponsor of I-2113, saw the same frustration in the room among Washingtonians — who wanted to express their support for restoring police pursuits of criminals and criminal suspects.

“This may be the most important reform of any in the Six Initiatives,” said Chairman Walsh. “It’s the single most crucial step we can take to fight rising crime rates in this state. I’m glad that Amber Goldade was able to tell the joint committee about her daughter’s tragic death and how I-2113 could have prevented Imaculee’s death. But there were so many more mothers and fathers and family members who were waiting to tell their stories. To voice their support for I-2113. Instead, we listened to obtuse rhetoric from out-of-state political partisans. That was a shame. A missed opportunity.”

All three initiatives that received hearings are scheduled to be voted out of their respective committees on Friday, March 1. They could receive floor votes as soon as Monday, March 4, or soon after. If they receive simple majority votes in the State Senate and House, they become law immediately.

The current legislative session in Olympia is scheduled to end on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

Information provided by Washington State Republican Party.

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