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Ballot measures that will be on November’s ballot


October 1, 2012

Several ballot measures are coming for you to vote on in November. Here is an accurate, plain-English summary of each one.

2012 Ballot Measures

Initiatives – ballot initiatives allow voters, rather than the Legislature, to enact new laws by a simple majority vote. Initiatives that pass become law without the Governor’s signature.

Initiative Measure No. 1185 would require that any bill to increase taxes be passed by a two-thirds vote in the Legislature or else be passed directly by voters.

A two-thirds vote would be required in both the House and the Senate before a bill to increase taxes could be passed. Any new or increased state fee could still be passed by a simple majority vote in the Legislature.

Initiative 1185 would confirm current state law as enacted when voters passed Initiative 1053 in 2010.

Initiative Measure No. 1240 would lift the ban on charter schools in Washington state. It would allow up to 40 publicly-funded charter schools to open over a five-year period.

These schools would be subject to state oversight and public accountability, including annual performance reviews to evaluate their success in educating students.

Charter schools would be tuition-free and open to all students. There would be an evaluation after five-years to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed.

Initiative to the Legislature 502 would require the legislature to change current law related to the possession, sale and use of marijuana.

If passed, the initiative would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.

Even if passed, there would be a conflict with federal drug laws, which might render the state law inoperative.

Referendum – A ballot referendum allows voters to confirm or repeal a bill that was passed by the Legislature earlier the same year.

Referendum Measure 74 would confirm a bill (ESSB 6239) passed by the Legislature that would allow same-sex couples to marry, would end registered domestic partnerships for people under age 62, and would allow clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

This bill would apply marriage laws without regard to gender, and would require that laws using gender-specific terms like “husband” and “wife” be changed to include same-sex spouses.

After 2014, all existing registered domestic partnerships would automatically be converted to marriages, except for seniors. A “yes” vote would confirm the same-sex marriage bill, and a “no” vote would repeal the bill.

Constitutional Amendments – proposed amendments to the state constitution are passed by the legislature and must be approved by voters at a general election. They do not require the Governor’s signature.

Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8221 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would reduce the constitutional debt limit in three stages from 9.0 percent to 8.0 percent of general state revenues by July 1, 2034.

The debt limit would be set at 8.5 percent starting July 1, 2014; 8.25 percent starting July 1, 2016, and 8.0 percent starting July 1, 2034.

The percentage debt limit would be applied to the average of general state revenues for the previous six fiscal years instead of the current three-year average. The definition of general state revenues includes property taxes.

Senate Joint Resolution 8223 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would grant the University of Washington and Washington State University a legal exception that would allow them to invest specified public funds in private companies or stock.

Advisory Votes – A state law passed by voters in 2007 as Initiative 960 requires that advisory votes be submitted to voters whenever the Legislature increases taxes, closes tax loopholes or otherwise makes changes in tax laws that were not approved by voters.

The votes are non-binding and if approved would not change state law.

Advisory Vote No. 1 concerns a law passed by the legislature that eliminated a business and occupation tax deduction for certain banks and other financial institutions.

The vote allows voters to advise the Legislature to repeal or maintain the tax deduction.

Advisory Vote No. 2 concerns a law passed by the legislature that extended a tax and reduced a tax rate on possession of petroleum products. The vote allows the voters to advise the Legislature to repeal or maintain the tax deduction.

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