Paul Jacob

Tim Eyman, Washington state’s so-called “initiative king,” calls Sen. Ken Jacobsen (D-Seattle) “the most honest elected official” on the issue of voter initiatives and referendums. So, what did Jacobsen do to earn such praise?

The senator introduced Senate Joint Resolution 8202. In one of Eyman’s famous mass emails to his group’s “thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc’d to all media outlets — reporters, columnists, editorial writers, and others in newspapers, radio, and TV — House & Senate members, and the Governor),” Eyman offered this unvarnished perspective:

Ken Jacobsen is the most honest elected official on this issue. He’s openly pushing to take our rights away from us. The sponsors of the other anti-initiative bills . . . hide their opposition and seek to impose unneeded, costly requirements on citizens so as to effectively repeal the initiative process with a stealth “regulate to death” strategy.

One sponsor of one of those “other" initiative-choking bills is Rep. Geoff Simpson (D-Covington). He says, as if on cue, “I support the initiative process.” But his legislation would limit contributions to an initiative campaign to $50. It would also limit a sponsor’s income from working for a campaign to “the annual salary of a legislator.”

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Good thing he supports the initiative. Imagine, otherwise, what he might propose be done to it? Or to Eyman.

Representative government has seen better days. It’s not enough that Congress and most state legislatures are nearly universally seen as so many modern-day “dens of thieves,” but some legislators feel the need to also cut off any and all citizen lifelines.

That’s what initiative and referendum (and recall) amount to: lifelines to be used when necessary to check government power.

Are they over-used? Are there too many initiatives or referendums on the ballot, blocking the careful march of progress orchestrated by legislators in Washington state?

Eyman points out there were only two citizen-initiated measures on the ballot last year, one initiative and one referendum, while “in the last legislative session, Governor Gregoire signed 583 bills into law, the most ever in one session.”

No, what is happening in Washington state’s legislature is a blatant attack against citizens . . . well, against citizens having any power or influence in their government.

Governor Christine Gregoire recently suggested that if folks like Eyman wanted influence in the legislature they should “come on down and run for election.” Otherwise, Gregoire said, “leave it to us.”

The arrogance is palpable. The danger to basic democratic control over government gone wild is serious. And it is certainly not limited to the Evergreen State. Last week, I detailed the relentless and false attacks on California’s initiative process from politicians and special interests. Legislators in Missouri and Nebraska have introduced legislation — now pending — to jack up the number of required petition signatures by as much as double.

Citizens in Charge Foundation has just released a national report card detailing the initiative and referendum rights of citizens in all 50 states. Sadly, most states received a failing grade of D or F. Usually this was because the state lacked any statewide initiative process. But even many of the 24 states with statewide initiative failed because of restrictions legislators have placed on petitioning.

As people are getting more frightened by the political direction of our country, they are getting more engaged. They will discover two truths:

    • the initiative is a critical vehicle for reform, and
    • most of our alleged public servants don’t want us to do any driving.

Isn’t it time we had people representing us who were willing to allow us a role in our own government — that is, one bigger than merely voting for them and then butting out?


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.