Legislative efforts to assure voters understand the cost of initiatives and I-1351’s hefty price tag

Rachel La Corte has a good overview of ways lawmakers are considering making clear the cost of ballot measures. (We wrote about one of them here.)

“In a lot of ways, the initiative process makes citizens legislators,” said Sen. Andy Hill, a Republican from Redmond who is chairman of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, which heard the ballot-information bill. “It’s important for them to have the same kind of information I have when writing a budget.”

La Corte writes that there’s nothing unusual about providing voters better information on fiscal issues.

According to the [National Conference of State Legislatures], if a ballot measure will have a monetary effect on the state’s budget, 13 states require a fiscal-impact statement to be drafted and placed on the petition or in the voter pamphlet. Several of those states also include that same information directly on the ballot: California, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming.

Clearly, Initiative 1351, with it’s $4.7 billion four-year price tag, stimulated interest in initiative reform this year. Lawmakers are considering ways to return the issue to the voters who gave it to them, reports Melissa Santos. The approach could be done without the supermajority vote required to amend or repeal an initiative within two years of its passage.

Putting an amended version of the initiative back on the ballot would require the approval of only a constitutional majority of the Legislature, or 50 percent of members plus one, according to a 1995 opinion issued by the state Attorney General’s Office.

The process is clearly laid out in Article II of the state constitution, said Hugh Spitzer, a lawyer who teaches constitutional law at the University of Washington. Through a referendum bill, lawmakers could propose changes to the initiative and ask voters to approve them, or they could ask voters to just get rid of the law, he said.

Intriguing. Read the article for perspectives from legislators struggling to deal with the measure and from the Washington Education Association, which put I-1351 on the ballot.