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State’s November 2013 election

Washington state will hold a general election on Nov. 5, 2013.

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SEATAC — A heated battle for a $15 minimum wage is raging this election season in the city of SeaTac.  On Tuesday, voters there will decide on Proposition 1, a big hike in pay for airport workers and other SeaTac-area employees.   A win could spread the movement to other Washington cities.

“If you are working for a living, you should be able to make a living,” said Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for the SeaTac minimum wage campaign

seatac-good-jobs-petitions

Courtesy: The Stand

Right now the state’s minimum wage is $9.19 an hour.  For years, labor unions have tried to get Sea-Tac International Airport to raise it for the workers there, to no avail.  So, they have gone to the people with an initiative to try for it at the ballot box.

If city voters approve a $15 minimum, it would apply to most airport workers, as well as those in airport-related industries, including the large nearby hotels, rental car agencies, and parking lots.

“These are corporations, multi-national corporations, many of them foreign owned, many of them making record-level profits that can afford and, in fact, should be paying people who work for them a living wage,” Weiner said.  “Fifteen dollars an hour in our view is just barely what you need to get by and to feed your family.”

A number of small businesses in the SeaTac area have banded together to defeat the measure.

“These jobs were never intended to be lasting jobs that you support a family on,” said Mike West, former chairman of the Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce.  “You have to get in at the bottom, get your foot in the door and work your way up, with education and training.”

In addition to a $15 minimum wage, this SeaTac measure would mandate paid sick leave and require employers to offer part-time workers more hours before hiring additional employees.

“It’s anti-business, and it will scare business away,” said Daryl Tapio, a SeaTac resident and business owner.  “If we have a minimum wage that is $5-$6 higher than the city just a mile away, and we have six cities that surround SeaTac, we’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Weiner denies that raising the minimum wage will hurt business and jobs.

“That’s what we hear, the sky is falling, all the time whenever anybody tries to raise the wages or help workers,” said Weiner.  “What we see over and over again is actually the opposite.  More jobs are created.  More money goes back into our local economy.”

Even though SeaTac is a relatively small town, only about 25,000 residents, this battle is getting a ton of attention.  Already campaign spending has reached $2 million.  Labor unions clearly hope this fight will encourage other area cities, perhaps even Seattle, to do the same.  Given the amount of money opponents are putting into this, it’s clear they worry exactly that will happen.

SEATTLE — The genetically modified food initiative is getting the most attention this election season, but there is a second statewide measure as well, one sponsored by initiative guru Tim Eyman.

There’s no doubt that I-517 is designed to make it easier to mount initiatives.  Indeed, it’s an initiative about initiatives.  The measure contains a handful of reforms to the process, and it’s almost guaranteed that they will lead to more ballot measures in the future.

i-517The biggest change is extending the amount of time to collect signatures, from six months to one year.  Having a whole year, supporters say, will allow organizers to use more volunteers and avoid having to pay million to professional signature-gatherers.

“What it will mean is less money will come into play in the initiative process,” said Mark Baerwaldt, spokesman for I-517.  “You have more time to be able to bring it to the ballot.”

Baerwaldt argues volunteers will be brought back into the initiative process.  Moreover, he notes that Oregon and Idaho both allow longer signature-gathering times than Washington, 2 years and 1 ½ years, respectively.

Former Secretary of State Sam Reed oversaw the initiative process for 12 years when he was in office and argues that it works just fine now, including the time limits.

“It’s the deadline that gets them to get out and get the signatures, and it’s not time,” Reed said.  “Having it drug out the whole year, having citizens have this in their face every time they go to the store over the whole year is not, I think, well, it’s a solution in search of a problem.”

Another hotly contested part of the initiative is just how much it would expand the area where signature-gatherers can do their work.  Here’s what the initiative says about that:

Signature gathering shall be protected on “all sidewalks and walkways that carry pedestrian traffic, including those in front of the entrances and exits of any store, and inside or outside public buildings such as public sports stadiums, convention/exhibition centers, and public fairs.”

Reed said,  “Once they get into the game, you know, the last thing they want is to have somebody in there wanting their signature on their petition.”

But Baerwaldt denies this would be a problem.

“There’s a practical reason why you wouldn’t be inside,” he said.  “No one’s going to spend, a signature-gatherer is not going to spend $100 to go into a stadium and collect signatures when they can stand outside and there’s thousands of people streaming by that they can collect signatures from.”

Initiative 517 would also create a protected 25-foot “safe zone” around signature-gatherers that would prevent anyone from harassing them or in any way interfering with their work.  It would also ensure that any initiative that gathered the required number of signatures would be placed on the ballot.

SEATTLE — State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Wednesday accused the largest donor opposing Initiative 522 of violating the state’s campaign laws by hiding its donors.

The Grocery Manufacturers of Association is the group that is on the hot seat.  It has been fighting hard against I-522, having given over $7 million so far to the anti-labeling effort.  Among other things, it argues it would raise food costs for consumers.

“The GMA explicitly attempted in their own words, to shield members from criticism for opposing Initiative 522,” said Ferguson.  “This is precisely the conduct our state campaign disclosure laws are designed to prevent.”

The attorney general said the group, which is a trade association, is required to disclose to the public where it got all that money. In other words, which member food companies, which member grocery stores have ponied up to defeat I-522.

Ferguson argues it’s the largest case in state history of a group skirting disclosure laws.  He’s ordering that GMA immediately turn over the names of their donors or face what he says would be “substantial” fines.

“The violation is significant,” Ferguson said.  “$7.2 million is awful lot of money to conceal from the public where they are making a decision about an initiative.  And the people of the state of Washington feel strongly about disclosure through our campaigns.  That’s why we’re bringing this action, and that’s why we want to send a message of deterrence as well for future violators.”

Supporters of Initiative 522 applauded the lawsuit Wednesday and demanded that the No ads, which are being financed by this money, be taken off the air.  “I think that the GMA and the No on 522 campaign is anti-transparency,” said Elizabeth Larter, spokeswoman for the Yes on I-522 campaign.  “They just don’t want people to know who’s funding their campaign, just like they don’t want us to know what’s in our food.”

The attorney general made clear that this is not a suit against the No on 522 campaign directly, rather, it’s a case against one of its biggest contributors.

The No on I-522 campaign made clear it had done nothing wrong.

“This is a legal dispute between the GMA and the Attorney General’s Office,” said Brad Harwood, spokesman for the campaign to defeat the initiative.  “The No on 522 campaign is not a party.  We have fully reported all our donations from GMA, and if GMA had done what the attorney general is suggesting, it would not have affected how we report their donations.”

On Wednesday afternoon the GMA issued a statement in response to the lawsuit:

“GMA…is surprised to learn that the Washington state authorities viewed the association’s actions as improper.   GMA will review its actions in Washington state and relevant statutes and continue to cooperate with state authorities to fully resolve the issue as promptly as possible.”

ballot boxSEATTLE — A group behind a $15-an-hour minimum wage in SeaTac appealed a King County judge’s decision to strip it from the November ballot and also submitted 250 more voter signatures to the city in order to get it back on the ballot, it was reported Tuesday.

The Seattle Times said the group “Yes! For SeaTac”, which is sponsoring what is known as the Good Jobs Initiative, appealed the decision of King County Superior Court Andrea Darvas to the Court of Appeals and asked for an emergency ruling.

On Monday, Darvas reversed the decision by the SeaTac City Clerk’s Office and King County Elections to allow the measure to go on the ballot, saying the initiative is “not supported by the required number of valid signatures of registered voters.”

Darvas said the city of SeaTac and the city clerk “are prohibited, and must desist and refrain, from sending the initiative to King County,” and must take “whatever actions are required to withdraw and remove the measure from processing by the King County Elections Department” and not place the measure on the ballot.

The judge said that if the signatures of 61 people who signed the petition more than once are removed, then there are not enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

But the group supporting the measure said that when a duplicate signature was found, both versions of the signature were thrown out. The initiative ended up 17 signatures short of the required 1,536 needed to put it on the November ballot, the group said.

So the group submitted 250 more signatures to the city Tuesday in the hope they can salvage the measure for the ballot.

To read the full decision by Darvas, click here (PDF file).

seatac-good-jobs-petitions

Courtesy: The Stand

SEATAC – The SeaTac City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to put a living wage initiative on the November ballot.

The “Good Jobs Initiative” would set employment standards for workers employed in the transportation, tourism and hospitality industries in SeaTac, including paid sick leave, full-time work for those who need it, a wage of at least $15 an hour, job security for employees when companies change contractors, and assurances that tips and service charges go to the workers who perform the service.

The measure would cover businesses in and around the airport, including airport baggage handling, passenger services, cabin cleaning, aircraft fueling, security, and retail stores, along with hotels, rental car and parking lot facilities. Small businesses and non-airport related businesses are specifically exempt.

Initiative supporters delivered more than 2,500 signatures to the SeaTac City Clerk’s Office last month. Only 1,541 valid signatures were required to qualify the measure in the city.

moneyTACOMA — The Tacoma City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to place a measure on the November general election ballot that would raise taxes on utility companies to pay for city roads.

The measure would levy an additional % earnings tax on electricity, natural gas and telephone utilities.

The City Council said this additional 2% tax will be solely dedicated to fund basic maintenance and safety upgrades, city roads, arterials, and bridges; permanent pothole repairs; pedestrian safety improvements to crosswalks near schools, sidewalks, and intersections; repaving neighborhood streets; and improved signal timing.

These earnings will generate a dedicated long-term, funding source for street maintenance and safety improvements of $10 million to $11 million annually, the City Council said.

Over the next three months, the council said, there will be a series of community meetings so voters can make an informed decision on Nov. 5.

moneySEATTLE — The Seattle City Council voted Monday to place on the November ballot a measure that would raise homeowners’ property taxes in order to partly finance the campaigns of City Council candidates.

The public financing proposal would only apply to City Council races and would be instituted in the 2015 elections.

“I’m looking forward to the robust debate about the role of money in politics in the months ahead,” Councilman Mike O’Brien said.

Voters would be asked to approve a six-year, $9 million property tax levy to finance the program, which would cost an estimated $2 million per year, or about $5.76 for a home valued at $350,000.

To opt into the program, candidates would first have to qualify by collecting contributions of $10 or more from at least 600 Seattle residents. Once qualified, donations up to $50 would be matched 6-to-1 on the first $35,000 raised.

Candidates who fully utilize the matching system would receive $210,000 in public funds throughout the entire campaign, split between the primary and general elections.

Candidates would have the option to run for office without participating in the public financing program.

SEATTLE — A group of gun rights advocates announced plans Thursday for a ballot initiative that would prohibit confiscation of firearms and would prevent Washington from adopting background checks that go beyond the federal standard.

“Our strategy is to protect gun rights,” said Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation.

The effort is clearly a reaction to the gun control initiative that was announced a few months ago that seeks to implement universal background checks and close the “gun show loophole.”

Gottlieb’s initiative would tie the state’s background check program to the federal standard.  So, given that the feds don’t require checks at gun shows or with other private sales, then Washington state wouldn’t be able to do that either.

“If it’s not a national standard,” said Gottlieb, “people are going to go to Idaho and buy a gun. They are going to go to Oregon and buy a guy and bring it back anyway. The bottom line is that if it’s not a national standard, it really isn’t workable.”

Opponents argue it’s an attempt to hamstring the state when it comes to gun control.

“It’s a cynical effort, because they know that Congress is farther behind the people of Washington state in adopting these common sense protections,” said Christian Sinderman of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

The pro-gun initiative would also prohibit the state from confiscating any firearms without due process.  Leaders want to make sure that whatever laws are passed, whatever gun bans are approved, at the federal or local level, that no one has their firearms taken away.

“They are going with what they can try and get away with right now, but their ultimate goal is to confiscate firearms,” Gottlieb said. “We know that, that’s where the anti-gun rights movement is, so we’re protecting against that.”

Sinderman says that fear is unfounded.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “There is absolutely no risk of law-abiding people losing their firearms in Washington state or other places.”

The Alliance’s initiatives, he says, “is only about closing loopholes and background checks.”

With two gun initiatives likely to be on the 2014 ballot, Washingtonians are in for a very high-profile, very expensive and probably very confusing gun debate as these two efforts vie for votes.

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