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    Eyman's initiative plan: Few objections

    The initiative promoter wants the right to go into stores' property to ask shoppers for their signatures.
    Tim Eyman reacts to a state Supreme Court ruling

    Tim Eyman reacts to a state Supreme Court ruling

    A proposal from serial petitioner Tim Eyman to make it easier to launch future local initiatives met little opposition in its introduction to the state House of Representatives Tuesday.

    Initiative 517 would give petitioners more time to gather signatures, as well as carving out broad new protections for initiative sponsors and signature gatherers. Legislators hearing the bill mostly focused their questions on a clause that would give signature gatherers a right to be on parts of private property that could be considered "public forums," such as privately owned sidewalks in front of stores. 

    Advocates for retailers in the state voiced the strongest objections at the hearing.

    "In essence it takes control away from the owners of our stores," said Jan Gee, president of the Washington Food Industry Association, a group including retailers. The presence of paid signature gatherers has been a growing problem for stores in Washington, Gee said.

    "Over the last several years the complaints have increased significantly," she said.

    Two types of initiatives are allowed in Washington state: one that goes directly to the ballot, and one that, after the necessary signatures are gathered, goes before the state Legislature, giving lawmakers the option to skip a vote and sign the initiative straight into law. If Eyman's measure fails to win approval from lawmakers, it will be on the November ballot.

    Supporters of the measure downplayed the importance of the part allowing petitioners onto private property. Instead, they pointed to a section of the initiative not specifically outlined in the summary given out at the hearing, but which they said was just as important: a restriction on the ability of cities and counties to challenge initiatives before they reached the ballot. 

    Enumclaw Republican Sen Pam Roach spoke in favor of the bill, and was the first to bring up the prohibition on action at the local level. 

    "What I like about this initiative," Roach said, "is it protects the citizens in cities and counties to exercise their right to the initiative process."

    Only a few Washington cities and counties allow local intiatives. Under current law, those initiatives can be challenged or even voted down by a city council before reaching a general vote. The initiative would prohibit those challenges, effectively forcing those cities that do allow initiatives to put each one that gathers enough signatures on the ballot.

    Eyman, who makes a business of promoting initiatives, said he was motivated to launch the initiative by what he characterized as repeated blocks of initiatives at the local level around the state, including at least one of his own. Eyman cited six cases starting in 2010, mostly involving red light cameras, where he said initiatives had garnered popular support only to be blocked by city authorities before getting on the balot. 

    Eyman also called the attempt to keep petitioners off private property disingenious.

    "We are talking about when [property owners] open themselves up to the public," Eyman said, "Once you allow Girl Scouts and veterans clubs and bellringers to be in front of your group, you've opened yourself up to the public."

    The introduction of the initiative to the House came after a similar move in the Senate. Lawmakers there heard the initiative in early January. The measure passed out of a committee chaired by Roach last month but hasn't been scheduled for a vote by the Senate as a whole.

    This story has been changed since it first appeared.

    Tom James has helped cover the 2013 state legislative session for Crosscut through the University of Washington journalism program. He also writes for Crosscut on other subjects. Born in Seattle and raised in Kitsap, Tom worked for the Kitsap Navy News and Central Kitsap Reporter before heading to the UW for a double-major in journalism and economics, which he hopes to finish in 2014.

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 7:10 a.m. Inappropriate

    This initiative is not about improving the lives of Washingtonians, it's about enriching Tim Eyman. He earns his living running initiative campaigns! A year-round signature-gathering season simply means more money in Tim Eyman's pocket each year.

    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 7:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    So Eyman is saying that a property owner gives up the right to choose who can be outside their store, but still on their property, once they say a Girl Scout can sell cookies? I thought this man was a conservative? Clearly @R is correct, he's only interested in Tim Eyman and making sure Tim Eyman gets what he wants.

    In the past at least he's been a relatively consistent anti-tax conservative. Never liked him, but thought he at least had a consistent ideology. Now I can't even give him that.


    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 9 a.m. Inappropriate

    I-517 says that state and local initiatives that collect the required number of signatures in the required amount of time have earned the right to have their measure voted on. There have been 15+ local initiatives that we've confirmed and documented that, even though they qualified, they went through a legislative, bureaucratic, and legalistic nightmare that sometimes blocked the people from voting. Some were progressive initiatives (No Coal! initiative in Bellingham) and some were conservative initiatives (red-light camera initiative in Redmond) and some were completely nonpartisan (the location of city hall in Mukilteo or location of a library in Renton).

    I-517 also allows more time so that grassroots groups have access to the statewide initiative process too. And I-517 deters interference and retaliation against petition-signers and people who are asking for signatures. I was simply quoting what the courts have already said about signature collection.

    I-517 is called "Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives". It's not about letting you vote on conservative initiatives only, it's about letting you vote on any initiative campaign that follows the law and qualifies for the ballot.

    Over 50 cities and counties have the initiative process (list here: http://www.mrsc.org/subjects/governance/initreflist.aspx). If a city or county had CHOSEN to have an initiative process, they should have to follow the laws.


    Posted Sat, Mar 9, 9:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    I voted for several of your initiatives including the ones on taxes, and hope you'll remain active. However, I don't think I'll be voting for this one.

    I think owners of private property should be able to forbid initiative petitioners but permit Girl Scout solicitations. If you's worded it more narrowly to forbid discrimination among initiatives, i.e., declare that if a private property owner allows any initiative petitioners in an election cycle he must allow all of them, I'd have been with you. But to say that initiative petitioners are the equivalent of any outside group regardless of its purpose is going too far.

    Initiative petitioners can be annoying and intimidating, and I think private property owners ought to have the right to keep them away. Tim, you've overreached on this.


    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 10:39 a.m. Inappropriate

    I love it! Glad that Tim is developing his retirement plan, based on a new market: initiatives that promote initiatives. I wonder how recursive he can make this in the future.


    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 10:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    Tim,,, you need to have an initiative that allows these people that don't sign the initiative to cough up the extra money government keeps taking from us. Once thats done maybe the majority of us can sleep easier.


    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

    It's bad enough as it is...I have literally been hassled and intimidated by paid petition gatherers who on at least one occasion stood in front of me, blocking my entry to a store. The entire initiative process has been corrupted over the years, and Eyman has finished it off and turned it into a farce. If I had my way, it would be against the law to pay people to collect signatures for any initiative.


    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 12:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    I believe there are regulations for people who are fundraising on streetcorners in Seattle -- do they extend to people collecting signatures for initiatives?

    I recognize we will never go back to the era where interested volunteers collected signatures, rather than using paid help, but I am disturbed by the change.


    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 3:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    I have never been hassled by a signature gatherer. I'm sure signature gatherers aren't doing it for the money, but for our right as citizens to be heard. Most the signature gatherers ask if you have signed the initiative somewhere else to eliminate costly signature counting or rejection of the initiative.


    Posted Sun, Mar 10, 1:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    I've been irritated by signature gatherers - and to me, being irritated means I won't shop at wherever it is that I see them.

    Wallet snapping shut.

    Posted Wed, Mar 6, 5:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    For those who are interested, here is our website which explains I-517's policies and the rationale for them:


    Reasons for extending the time to participate

    Reasons for guaranteeing the right to vote on qualified initiatives

    Reasons for deterring violence and encouraging a peaceful process


    Posted Thu, Mar 7, 8:31 a.m. Inappropriate

    "We are talking about when [property owners] open themselves up to the public," Eyman said, "Once you allow Girl Scouts and veterans clubs and bellringers to be in front of your group, you've opened yourself up to the public."

    What? Every private property owner gets to decide who gets to be on their property. Sorry, Tim, that's their right and I'm quite surprised that you would want to overturn that.


    Posted Thu, Mar 28, 9:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    I'm surprised to see you taking a hard property rights position. I can't remember supporting anything from Eyman's poisonous libertarian pen before, but this one might make sense. The right of access to private property that is essentially part of the commons--public space--was successfully litigated by the environmental and civil libertarian communities in Washington.

    I-517 implements Alderwood Associates v. Washington Environmental Council (1981) and other cases. See AGO letter opinion May 2, 2007, available at http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/initiatives/faq.aspx.

    [Caveat--I have only read summaries, not the full text, as of this post]


    Posted Thu, Mar 7, 12:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    again, I was quoting what the courts have said.


    Posted Sat, Mar 9, 9:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    I think this issue will likely doom I-517


    Posted Sun, Mar 10, 12:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    Eyman says this and calls it disengenuous: "We are talking about when [property owners] open themselves up to the public," Eyman said, "Once you allow Girl Scouts and veterans clubs and bellringers to be in front of your group, you've opened yourself up to the public."

    He's disengenuous. As a property owner if I give permission to the Girl Scouts, veterans clubs and bellringers to be in front of my shop, tough beans, Mr. Eyman. It's my right to pick and choose. I don't have to be politically correct, and I don't have to choose everyone. It's my business, my property, my choice.

    Go find another way to hack for money.

    Posted Sun, Mar 10, 4:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    mr commonsense

    isn't that discriminating?


    Posted Sun, Mar 10, 4:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    this is what you get ,,,,,duh!

    political correctness runamuk

    wake up, my middle classness is being discriminated and violated


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