The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Making sense of the 'mystery' ballot items


What do those pesky initiatives mean?

Tales abound lately of mystified looks across countless tables throughout Klickitat County as pens poise in confused midflight toward boxes on ballots.

"Do you know what this initiative is really about?" asks Confused Person A.

"Sure," answers Confused Person B. "It's about 300 words too long."

Here's the boiled-down versions of the initiatives on the ballot for us this year:

• I-1433. On the surface, it looks like it's about raising the state minimum wage from current levels to $11 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020. And, strangely enough, that actually is what it means. So how do you vote? West of the Cascade Curtain, the initiative will probably pass without much notice, given the costs of living in larger metropolitan areas. But even there, and especially elsewhere, many are concerned of the impact of mandated minimums on small businesses-which, in fact, drive a significant portion of the state's economy. That's what you need to know; how you choose to see the issue is up to you.

• I-1464. The single sentence describing this initiative on the ballot is downright cryptic. Boiled down, it means that voters would be able to make donations to some elected officials using public funds, your tax dollars. It's called "democracy credit donations," another roll-off-the-tongue phrase that tells you nothing, but what it means is that voters could choose certain candidates of their preference to get public money for their campaigns. It's pitched as a more egalitarian way for voters to exercise direct influence in the campaign funding process. Detractors say it messes with the purpose of taxes that shouldn't be diverted from their customary functions. You decide.

I-1491. This one is another rare instance where what it says is pretty much what it means. Basically, do you want the state to limit gun sales when a person of demonstrable mental instability tries to buy one? But below the surface lies the matter of a judge having to issue an one-year order to keep guns out of the hands of a person based in his or her assessment of the danger posed by an individual. Detractors say the law doesn't require evaluation, monitoring, or treatment of a potentially psychologically disturbed person and say existing laws already address the problem. Your call.

• I-1501. Almost straightforward: provides stronger penalties for people who target seniors for scams and consumer fraud. An underlying issue is the proposed matter of keeping caregivers identities out of public records requests. Supporters say that's required to allow more proactive reporting on fraud; detractors say it's a backhanded way for unions to keep members from finding out they don't have to pay union dues. Tough one with good points on both sides. You'll have to decide if you want stronger teeth against fraud targeting seniors or to ensure that caregivers have the right to avoid union dues if they want.

• I-731. Ostensibly this is about raising taxes on certain parties who perpetuate the use of fossil fuels. As usual, there are deeper issues. On one hand, the initiative could foster the development of cleaner energy sources. On the other hand, it could sabotage the state budget and shortchange key programs by $797 million. This is one is too murky to untangle, given its tentacles reaching into so many levels of the state's interaction with energy and the budget. Best advice might be to lean toward not increasing taxes of any kind on anyone for the time being while the smoke clears on the broader issues.

• I-735. This initiative calls for Washington State to propose an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would end the recognition of corporations as individuals for tax purposes. Long story short: right now a corporation is legally considered an individual, just like a regular person, for most purposes. And therefore a corporation can "say" whatever it wants under the Bill of Rights. This initiative would propose removing corporations from designation as individual with the aim of preventing free speech-presently afforded to individuals-from being available to corporations. It also wants to say that how one spends money should not be considered free speech. So, on one hand, it wants to keep corporations and their money from having too much influence on public opinion, but it also stands to be the first proposed constitutional amendment since Prohibition to take rights away, even if it's just from corporations. If you're against large companies wielding inordinate influence in the political system, you'll say yes to this one. If you hate the idea of restricting basic rights in any way, you'll say heck no.


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