By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Writer
There’s a lot to digest in Tim Eyman’s latest initiative – 5,250 words, to be precise.
I read it.
Well, most of it. I skimmed those little clauses near the end on “construction,” “severability,” and the ubiquitous “miscellaneous.”
By the time I got there, I got the point.
Eyman – who will undoubtedly circulate this column in a fundraising appeal online – is convinced Washingtonians are not getting enough democracy in their diet.
So he went into his Mukilteo laboratory and developed Initiative 960, a ginormous daily supplement of democracy.
Ask him and he’ll tell you the dosage in I-960 will build muscle in the governed masses and rid them of frustration and pain suffered at the hands of arrogant politicians.
The active ingredient is spelled out in the intent clause of the initiative:
“With this measure, the people intend to protect taxpayers by creating a series of accountability procedures to ensure greater legislative transparency, broader public participation, and wider agreement before state government takes more of the people’s money.”
To encapsulate – many details won’t fit in this capsule – I-960 would:
* Put every statewide tax measure on a ballot for voters to approve, disapprove or offer an advisory opinion.
* Require every fee hike to be passed by legislators and signed into law by the governor.
* Mandate that a press release be issued on every meaningful action on bills dealing with taxes and fees.
Opponents are already warning voters this initiative will overdose the body politic in paper and process, and anesthetize those elected to govern.
And, they point out, some of I-960’s demands exist today.
Laws now require voters get a say on most new taxes. Lawmakers can two-step around the rules, and they have. This initiative aims to tie up their fancy feet.
The initiative can’t improve much on what is now available for those intent on tracking every twist and turn of the legislative process.
You can sign up online for agendas, meeting schedules, bill updates, roll-call votes and tons more. Data the initiative requires to be put in press releases can be obtained today with a phone call or e-mail.
What most caught my eye is I-960’s handling of fees.
It imposes the same form of direct democracy on the Legislature as practiced by local governments.
For example, the director of the Department of General Administration is considering hiking the fee for parking spaces near the Capitol. Under I-960, lawmakers and the governor would make the decision.
This measure would extend to every single fee hike, right down to whether folks pay more for renting a yurt or taking a shower in a state park.
Eyman said it ensures lawmakers, not appointed bureaucrats, are held accountable to voters for any cost increase. That’s the meaning of representative democracy, he said.
That much democracy will give legislators indigestion.
Eyman is counting on voters having stronger stomachs.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield’s column on politics runs every Sunday. He can be heard at 8 a.m. Monday on the Morning Show on KSER 90.7 FM. He can be reached at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.