From a report by the Washington Secretary of State’s office.

Paul Allen’s Initiative 1401, requiring a state crackdown on trafficking of endangered species/parts, has qualified for a spot on the statewide Washington ballot this fall, Secretary of State Kim Wyman announced late Wednesday.

State Elections Division crews completed scrutiny of voter signatures on a random sampling of I-1401 petitions and showed that sponsors submitted more than enough names to qualify for a state vote.

To earn a ballot spot takes 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters – 8 percent of the last votes cast for governor. Sponsors turned in over 347,000 signatures and about 10,000 were randomly chosen by computer algorithm for a full check.

The check showed an error rate of about 14 percent, compared with the average rate of 18 percent in recent decades.

The check showed that 9,101 signatures in the sample were accepted, 1,321 were rejected because the signer wasn’t a registered voter, 120 rejected because the signature didn’t match the one on file. Only one duplicate was found, an unusually low number.

The text is here.

Our website for signature-checks is here.

Election Director Lori Augino said the signature-checkers now turn their energies to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1366. The measure is an attempt to pressure the Legislature into placing a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot to require a two-thirds vote in both houses to boost taxes in Olympia.

Eyman and the campaign also turned in a large pad, with signatures over 339,000 total, so I-1366 is widely expected to make the ballot also. No other referenda or constitutional amendments will appear on the fall ballot.

Wyman applauded the continuing citizen interest in “direct democracy” via the ballot box.

“About 700,000 people from all over the state with various political views took part in gaining ballot access for the two 2015 initiatives,” she noted. “Ballot measures always seem to generate voter turnout and this year, with no statewide or congressional races, this is an important factor in generating interest.”

Share on Facebook

Washington

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

Some people will probably be calling it the billion-dollar tax proposal – a proposal that taxpayers will be asked to impose on themselves – which may be a small exaggeration but will certainly highlight why the correct number is $900 million.

“Oh, it’s not a billion? Excuse me – you’re right, it’s a mere $900 million . . .”

The ask is for the city of Seattle, whose leading officials including the mayor are the people doing the asking, and which is large and wealthy enough to make it not beyond the pale. And it’s not that transportation needs in the city aren’t great: They surely are.

It’s just that the number is so large it may cause a lot of taxpayers to blanch and decide against it before they’ve even had a chance to look at the large number of things it would do.

Which raises another problem. The list is extensive all right (see the local section in this edition), but so much so that your eyes tend to glaze over.

Then there’s the matter of what it doesn’t include, but will be an overarching consideration during the campaign ahead: Bertha. The mega-machine, that is, still sort of stuck in the ground and falling ever further behind in its effort to create a revised Alaskan Way viaduct.

Anyone seeking to blow the new tax plan out of the water will have only to recite that one name – “Bertha” – to punch the air out of any grand new transportation plans.
Optimism in that whole arena of Seattle transportation is in short supply this year, as it was last. The timing for this thing may be less than ideal, even if the need is demonstrably, yes, quite real.

Share on Facebook

Washington Washington column

At #MJBAJobFair 2015 on a panel about working in a legal pot shop, the Mayor of Cannabis City, James Lathrop, shares what it has been like to open and operate the first marijuana retail store in Seattle.

Share on Facebook

Washington

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

Here are two ways that the 2013 election of socialist Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council might have played out.

1 – She might have become a shrill complainer about most of what the council did, and the rest of the council would have put in (metaphorical) earplugs and just gone about its business, ignoring her.

2 – She might have made an occasional stand for a different perspective but largely gone along with the council majority so as not to be marginalized.

What actually happened seems to have fallen somewhere in between: Challenging the other council members and sticking up for alternative positions on a regular basis, but without being ignored. She has torn into them on occasion, but apparently has enough political skill to turn at least some of that into practical action.

As the Seattle Times noted in a front page story last week: “She accused them of taking their marching orders from corporate executives. But the next month, the council adopted a new budget peppered with Sawant-sponsored amendments — including an immediate wage hike for city employees, money to support tent encampments and a commitment to study a possible excise tax on millionaires — and the opposite seemed just as accurate: Sawant’s colleagues were taking marching orders from her.”

Not everywhere, or on all things, certainly. None of the council members are all that dominant, but Sawant’s influence appears to be real. Veteran Council member Nick Licata described the council now as “More progressive. More sensitive to social and economic justice. The other members are inclined to go there, but Kshama is pushing them. Kshama has made things happen that never would have happened before.”

That amounts to some real change in the city of Seattle.
Sawant is being challenged this year by a couple of opponents, at least one of whom has substantial establishment back. But she’s running in the best district in Seattle for her politics. We’ll see if her approach continues to push the city in different directions for another few years.

Share on Facebook

Washington Washington column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

The argument against major raises to the minimum wage, notably in Washington – where the minimum is the highest in the country – sometimes runs to the ideological (government shouldn’t so regulate business) but focuses more on the practical.

That is: Higher minimum wages would have negative economic effects, especially in the area of the number of jobs out there. Raise the wage, the argument goes, and the business-wage monetary pie will be sliced fewer ways, cutting out some of the jobs.

The argument sounds sensible from a numerical standpoint, but it runs aground in several other places. One is that the amount of money dedicated to paychecks is not static: It varies as the need for workers goes up or down. A hamburger joint that needs to hire (let’s say) a dozen workers to meet the demand and keep the business operating properly isn’t going to suddenly drop to nine employees because wages went up. More likely, as is the case for any business when some part of the operation becomes more costly, the price of a burger and fries will edge up. Most of the time, customers little notice – less than they would if they weren’t getting their orders filled.

This comes back to mind with a piece in the Horse’s Ass blog, recalling the warnings of Andrew Friedman, a Seattle bar owner (it’s called Liberty, of course) warned that a $15 minimum wage meant “Local independent businesses WILL closed, many of your neighbors WILL be out of work.”

About nine months ago, the minimum wage was approved. A few days ago, some months after its effects had some time to settle in, Friedman had some business news. No, not the closure of Liberty, but rather the opening of second bar (the Good Citizen).

Sounds like more jobs have been created.

Albeit, for customers, probably a higher tab on the well drinks.

Share on Facebook

Washington Washington column



 
An . . . unusual video ad for a candidate for the Seattle City Council.

Share on Facebook

Washington

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

The biggest story of the week in the Northwest, and one not getting especially strong news coverage, is the now-arrived massive Pacific Coast port shutdowns, extending across a vast distance north to Alaska and south through California.

And not just a regional story, but national. The members of Congress beginning to scurry about calling for help – from the White House among other places – are not misplacing their concerns.

Here’s one comment, one of many like it around the net as last week ended, from the Retail Industry Leaders Association: “A breakdown in contract negotiations between labor and management at America’s west coast ports is threatening to turn a slowdown into a full-scale strike, and an economic headache into a full-blown crisis that impacts the entire American economy.”

Ports on the west coast carry an estimated 43.5% of all container cargo in the United States – something like a trillion dollars in trade. You have to assume that in the Pacific Northwest, the percentage is much higher. Businesses will not be able to get supplies or get to market; consumers will not get goods. The economy could screech to a halt.

The battle between the Pacific Maritime Association (which represents the 29 big pacific ports, including Seattle, Portland and Tacoma) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers has turned poisonous. Each essentially is accusing the other of bad faith, and making essentially personal shots at the other. And each seems to have grievances with the other that seem to reach beyond the merely emotional.

Getting past this won’t be easy.

Time has come for the national government to weigh in. All these cheerful economic numbers – like the excellent employment news released last week – could come to an end if this loggerheads on the Pacific Coast doesn’t.

Share on Facebook

Washington Washington column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

In some ways, the long-standing age at which people could smoke – 18 – has seemed an anomaly. Or the drinking age is; but setting one three years after the other seems a remarkable piece of inconsistency.
One which Washington state might address this year.
Or it might not since the address at hand is that of the state legislature, where the outcome of previously untried ideas is never certain.

The bill comes from Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose statement points out, “The harmful consequences of tobacco are clear. Smoking kills 8,300 Washingtonians every year, and $2.8 billion in health care costs are directly attributed to tobacco use in the state. Washington state taxpayers pay nearly $400 million in taxes to cover state government expenditures caused by smoking. According to a recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General, over 100,000 of today’s Washington youth are projected to die prematurely due to the effects of smoking.”

The Senate and House bills have in-chamber (and majority party bipartisan) backing from Senator Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) and Representative Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines).

The states split up the elements of adulthood, declaring that people are old enough to do A but not B. People can vote, enter into contracts, join the military and marry at 18, but they cannot drink until they are 21. Why? A case might be made that the potential damage arising from bad choices in those other activities reflect mainly on the individual person, or (as in voting) is spread out widely, whereas a DUI case can put other lived at imminent risk.

Where does smoking fall along that theoretical continuum? It may be a gray area. As Ferguson’s statement notes, the major harm is medical. But we also know that bad medical decisions raises the cost and availability of medical care for us all. (We also know that more people become addicted to nicotine before 21 than after it; lifetime smoking habits usually begin by around age 18.)

At least, that’s one theory. Watch for the flashpoint to open into flame this session.

Share on Facebook

Washington Washington column

 

Eclipse, a black Labrador Retriever, has learned how to navigate the city’s mass transit system – by herself. Occasionally, she hops on a bus to get the dog park… without her owner.

Share on Facebook

Washington

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

Rob McKenna, the former attorney general who narrowly lost his bid for governor in 2012 to now-incumbent Jay Inslee, has been sending out periodic missives on the foibles of Olympia, taking aim most generally (as you’d expect) at the Democrats, including his former opponent.

His email from last week was something of a cautionary note applicable to both parties, since the parties now split control of the Washington legislature. The key section goes like this:

Insiders in Olympia are already taking bets on how much extra time the Legislature will need to complete its work and pass a budget this year. With a fight over spending and new taxes looming, it’s no surprise that people are bracing for a special session, or two.
But there’s also no reason legislators can’t get the job done on time. Responding to another legislator’s joke about having bought a six-month gym membership in Olympia in expectation of special sessions, Sen. Andy Hill said this week, “If you’re saying today, ‘It’s going to take us two or three special sessions,’ I would argue you’re not negotiating in good faith, because we know what the problem is.”
He’s right. They know the problems they face and they have enough info today to start hammering out a budget compromise. We don’t need any games to see who will blink first. As citizens, we need to make it clear to our legislators that we expect them to get the public’s business done on time.

The view here long has been, and still is, that a few more days of legislative time is small price to pay if the result is better legislation and better budgeting.

If the delay is simply a factor of partisan intransigence, that’s another matter. Both parties might do well to pay attention to McKenna’s note on the subject.

Share on Facebook

Washington Washington column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

In 2016, Governor Jay Inslee will be up for a re-election that, presumably, he will be pursuing.
In 2015, he will be presenting (well, sort of already last week presented) a budget and legislative package that would have to rank as one of the most ambitious of recent years.

The headlines on four of his press releases from last week all by themselves give some of the flavor: “Inslee proposes sustainable, responsible, fair budget to ‘reinvest in Washington’;” “Inslee announces slate of proposals to curb pollution, transition Washington to cleaner sources of energy”; “Gov. Inslee calls for comprehensive statewide transportation program,” “Inslee proposes boldest new efforts in improving full continuum of education in 2 decades.”

He does this at a time when Republicans have come back into outright control of the state Senate, and Democrats maintain only the thinnest control of the state House. The Republican response to Inslee’s push is about what you might expect: Good luck with that.”

At this point, the probable outcome is that Inslee does push through a small number of relatively uncontroversial measures, but that most of them go no further.

Facing with this kind of situation, most governors (of whichever party) faced with a similar situation might tack toward the cautious and basic. Why simply offer a batch of proposals likely to get shot down, unceremoniously, in the legislature? (And yes, that
mostly does seem to be the likely result.)

The best answer that comes immediately to mind is that Inslee is planning to campaign for re-election in 2016on a package that looks a lot like this year’s budget proposal.

While the proposal package may have trouble at the statehouse, it might not make a bad basis for a campaign message and rationale, as well as forming a platform to running against the legislature as well as whatever Republican opponent solidifies. It may sink rather quickly in the next few months, but there seems to be a good chance it will re-emerge in 2016.

Share on Facebook

Washington Washington column