Care worker initiative approved for ballot

OLYMPIA — An initiative to increase training and testing of long-term care workers will appear on the November ballot, the state Supreme Court decided Friday.

A majority of justices rejected a request to keep Initiative 1029 off the ballot because of a mistake in the wording of the petitions circulated to qualify the measure for the ballot.

“We applaud the court’s decision to uphold the secretary of state’s decision to put this before the voters to see if the citizens of Washington want safe, quality care for seniors,” said Jeff Parsons, spokesman for the Yes on Initiative 1029 campaign.

The measure pushed by the powerful voice of health care workers, Service Employees International Union Local 775, would require most long-term care workers hired after Jan. 1, 2010, to undergo 75 hours of training. The current standard is 34 hours.

It also would require workers to obtain certification and undergo background checks.

Opponents pointed out that wording on the measure’s petitions describe it as an initiative to the Legislature and thus it should be given to lawmakers in January to consider enacting.

Proponents said that wording was a mistake and they always intended for it to be an initiative to the people to get onto the ballot. Secretary of State Sam Reed, after consulting with the attorney general’s office, agreed to let it go forward.

In a hearing before the Supreme Court on Thursday, Narda Pierce, attorney for the Community Care Coalition of Washington, argued the court should uphold the integrity of the state law spelling out the differences between the two types of initiative.

Justices were expected to reach a conclusion quickly to prevent any delay in the preparation of ballots for the Nov. 4 general election. They will not issue a full written decision for several weeks.

“Obviously we were surprised by the decision but we don’t know what the legal reasoning for it was,” said Kathy Benedict, another attorney representing opponents. “We’re going to have to wait to read what the court’s decision is to see.”

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or

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