‘The people in the state of Washington have spoken’: Rally attendees push for hearings for six initiatives


While they could ultimately end up before voters in November, approximately 200 rally attendees argued on the steps of the State Capitol Jan. 31 that a slate of conservative initiatives should be given hearings during the current legislative session.

There, a collection of legislators — several of whom represent Southwest Washington — and podcaster Brandi Kruse said lawmakers must do so to meet their constitutional responsibilities.

“We are here today to ask the public servants in the building behind us to do one simple thing — to give these initiatives hearings,” Kruse said. “We want them to take just a small amount of time to hear from the Washingtonians who are negatively impacted by their policies.”

The six initiatives, each of which has now been certified by the secretary of state, drew a combined 2.6 million signatures from 800,000 registered voters. They range from a parental bill of rights to repealing the state’s capital gains tax to easing restrictions on vehicle pursuit laws.

While the Legislature has failed to take action to formally consider the initiatives, Democratic leaders said this week they’re exploring how to respond.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, said during the Democratic leadership’s media availability last week that the Legislature requested fiscal notes on each initiative as lawmakers seek “more information” on the proposals.

Fitzgibbon added, “We have not made a final decision on alternatives on enactments on any of the six initiatives.”

A fiscal note would show the budgetary impact on the state’s budget if the initiatives were to be adopted.

“We’ve been having a lot of conversations about that, about what the right path forward is,” Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, said during the Democratic Leadership media availability. “Both for success for the policies that we’ve passed, but also, to preserve the investments that we’ve made in communities all across this state.”

During a recent visit to Lewis County, Gov. Jay Inslee highlighted the Climate Commitment Act and the state’s capital gains tax, two targets of the initiatives, though the governor stopped short of “advocating” a position.

“Let’s get away from campus radicalism and get back to common sense,” said Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen. “We can do it, and we will do it.”

On multiple occasions, speakers referenced the state’s constitution, which says initiatives to the Legislature “shall take precedence over all other measures in the Legislature except appropriation bills and shall be either enacted or rejected before the end of … regular session.”

“We’ve got a moral obligation to the 400,000 people who signed every initiative, to give them a chance to come down to Olympia and testify and talk about why they like the initiative,” Minority Leader Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, said Jan. 31. “As Brandi and others have alluded to, we have a constitutional obligation, because the state constitution is clear that these initiatives shall take precedence over all other measures.”

On Jan. 31, the Citizen Action Defense Fund (CADF) sent a letter to legislative leaders demanding the Legislature consider the six initiatives. The CADF represents John and Amber Goldade, who lost their 12-year-old daughter to the driver of a stolen truck. According to CADF, police had followed the driver two weeks earlier, though they ceased the pursuit due to the state’s recently enacted reforms.

“The language in the state constitution is clear: initiative measures have to take precedence over all other measures outside of appropriation bills,” said Jackson Maynard, executive director and counsel for CADF. “It is outrageous that my clients have to wait while legislative committees hear hundreds of other bills that don’t have special constitutional priority. It is fundamentally wrong, and if the legislature won’t follow the constitution, then my clients will consider every legal option.”

If the Legislature fails to act during the current session, the initiatives will appear on the November ballot.

Locally, several Southwest Washington lawmakers have asked this week for the legislature to take action.

In a statement Jan. 29, Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, said, “The people of this state are saying they have a big problem with the grand schemes our friends have enacted over the last several years.”

“They’re telling us [the] state government is asserting too much power and control over our daily lives, making life in Washington too expensive, and forcing us to tolerate crime. If our colleagues think these are good ideas, they ought to be willing to stand up on the floor of the House and Senate and declare that the people are wrong.”

On Jan. 30, a bill sponsored by Wilson to establish a 25-foot buffer zone around signature gatherers failed to advance out of committee.

“It seems to me though that those who don’t want to stand up for our rights couldn’t have the courage to have this bill move forward, to have a discussion in front of you,” Wilson said.

Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, appeared in a video with Walsh on Jan. 29 after a motion to hold a hearing on the state’s long-term care tax failed.

“The people in the state of Washington have spoken, and the Legislature needs to listen,” Abbarno said. “And we tried to force that, and unfortunately, House Democrats voted against that.”

Walsh, who also chairs the state GOP, said during the rally the state needs to “regain the great trait” of fiscal conservatism and pushed back on the influence of Brian Heywood, a millionaire who spent more than $6 million on paid signature gathering campaigns for the initiatives.

“Don’t let the media say it’s one person, don’t let the media disparage this, about going decades,” Walsh said. “We need to restore what’s good. That’s what this project is about. It’s about fixing what’s good and reclaiming the good.”