Opinion

Citizens need right to petition

We revel in citizen initiatives and referendums that ignite debate and give balance to what does or doesn’t happen in Olympia.

Washington citizens love the fact that they have the right to create laws. While our constitution grants this power, the Democrat majority in Olympia is intent on removing it.

These proposals in Olympia seriously erode your right to participate and ability to interact with your government. We believe there is an assault on the constitutional protections that guarantee the citizens’ right to participate in their government. Here are some examples:

• Senate Bill 6130 and Senate Bill 6843, passed by the Senate, gut the taxpayer protection law enacted by Initiative 960. The requirement to publish how legislators voted on tax increases in the voter’s pamphlet was one of the key provisions that would be suspended. That’s wrong. We’re not worried about our constituents seeing our “no” vote on new taxes; if you’re proud of your vote, why not let the public see it?

• Only a few days later, the Democrat-controlled Senate passed Senate Bill 6754, which would force public disclosure of the names and addresses of people who sign petitions to place initiatives and referenda on the ballot. Imagine the scenario: you sign an initiative based on your beliefs, and your employer – who feels the opposite – gets a list of the people who signed it. Maybe you won’t experience retribution at work, but maybe you will. Would it make you think twice about signing an initiative?

Isn’t it ironic that one day a majority of senators vote to conceal how they vote on tax increases and then a few days later vote to require you to disclose your sponsorship of an initiative?

• That same night the Senate passed Senate Bill 6449, which would require businesses that pay petition signature-gatherers to register with the Public Disclosure Commission. This registration would be a lengthy and complicated process. The bill is another attempt to put the brakes on your constitutional right to petition your government.

At the same time, the Legislature has refused to act on those bills that would increase transparency and open government. A 72-hour review period before the Legislature could vote on budget bills would help, but this common-sense, bipartisan idea – put forward several years in a row – seldom receives a vote, usually dies in committee and never has the support of the majority party leadership.

Article I, Section 1 of our state constitution couldn’t say it any clearer: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

The citizens’ right to the initiative and referendum process is guaranteed by the state constitution. But the Legislature is constantly eroding the people’s right to enact laws and reject lawmakers’ bad laws at the ballot box. The cumulative effect of these initiative-killing bills is toxic to our guaranteed freedoms.

Legislators work for the taxpayers and citizens of this state, not the other way around. We are sent to Olympia to represent the people, not to rule over them. We urge you to register your opposition to any legislation that erodes your rights as a citizen by calling your lawmakers at 1-800-562-6000. (If you want your message sent to the governor, you must specifically request that.)

If the Democrat majority in the Legislature is successful in making these proposals law, then transparent, open and representative government will be the casualty.

By Sens. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, Don Benton, R-Vancouver,

Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and Janéa Holmquist, R-Moses Lake

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