by Michael Sarko
– The Capitol Hill Times –
It’s just a few days until the November election ballots get counted. There are a number of major issues on the docket this year. The Capitol Hill Times is happy to offer this guide to what the measures are, what they will do, and what it means to vote for or against them.
Seattle Proposition 1: General Obligation Bonds for the Alaskan Way Seawall
This measure will allow the City of Seattle to fund the replacement of the Alaskan Way Seawall and the renovation of associated structures, including Piers 58 and 62/63 at the downtown waterfront. The total cost of the project is $290 million, to be raised by selling bonds. The measure will also allow the city to establish a new property tax not to exceed 30 years to pay the principal and interest on those bonds, amounting to $59 a year for the average Seattle-area home in property tax in addition to existing property taxes.
Vote to Approve: Permits the city to fund the construction and renovation of the Seawall and associated structures.
Vote to Reject: Denies the city the right to fund the Seawall renovation.
Maintenance and Operations Levies for Fire Protection in District No. 20 and No. 45
These two measures, which have gone unopposed, will allow King County to add an additional levy over the next four years to fund the operations and maintenance of fire departments and EMS in Renton and the University District. The funds will come from property taxes in those districts that will amount to an average of less than $five per month.
Vote to Approve: Allows King County to raise the levy in each respective district.
Vote to Reject: Forbids King County from raising these levies.
Initiative 502: The Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana
I-502 is a sweeping reform in law enforcement, business, substance control, and taxation that will permit the cultivation, processing, sale, and possession of certain quantities of marijuana and marijuana-derived products for individuals aged 21 and older. It will also establish authority in the Washington State Liquor Control Board to oversee this new industry and manage funds generated by it, to be distributed to a variety of entities including drug research and treatment programs through the University of Washington.
Vote Yes: Legalizes marijuana according to the specifics of the initiative and establishes a system of regulation and taxation thereof.
Vote No: Maintains Washington’s current marijuana laws.
Initiative 1185: Two-Thirds Legislative Majority to Approve New Fees and Taxes
Current law in Washington State requires our House of Representatives and Senate to both approve any legislation leading to new fees and taxes by a two-thirds majority. This includes the closing of so-called “tax loopholes.” I-1185 will restate this law.
Vote Yes: Maintains Washington’s current two-thirds legislative majority requirement for the raising of new fees and taxes.
Vote No: Removes the two-thirds legislative majority requirement on the raising of new fees and taxes in favor of a simple majority.
Initiative 1240: Creation of a Public Charter School System
Washington State law requires all resident children between the ages of 8 and 18 to attend public school, with the exception of those enrolled in private school or officially home-schooled. I-1240 will allow the state to open and fund no more than 40 charter schools, which are schools that receive public funds but are overseen by a board of directors in an independent, non-profit corporation. These schools would still be subject to supervision by the public school system’s superintendent and the state board of education. All non-profits that wish to establish a charter school in Washington will have to seek approval with either a newly-created Charter School Commission or with local school districts, resulting in a contract with the authorizing entity setting out minimum requirements for the specific school.
Vote Yes: Creates the Charter School Commission and allows for the creation of up to 40 publicly funded, independently operated charter schools in Washington.
Vote No: Maintain current laws that disallow the creation of charter schools in Washington.
Referendum 74: Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage
Early in 2012, the state legislature voted to approve Senate Bill 6239, which afforded the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples equal to those of opposite-sex couples. R-74 asks voters to approve or reject this decision by the legislature.
Vote to Approve: Upholds the legislature’s decision, allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state of Washington.
Vote to Reject: Allow only opposite-sex couples to marry in the state of Washington.
Resolution 8221: Lowering the State Debt Limit
Currently, the state of Washington has a 9 percent debt limit for construction projects that does not take into account funds generated by property taxes. Resolution 8221 would lower that debt limit to 8 percent gradually by 2034 and include property tax revenue in debt calculations.
Vote to Approve: Lowers the state debt limit for construction projects to eight percent by 2034, includes property tax in debt calculations, and bases calculations on an average of the past six years of state revenues.
Vote to Reject: Maintains the current nine percent limit on state debt for construction projects, does not include property tax in debt calculations and bases calculations on state revenues from the past three years.
Resolution 8223: Private Investment of Funds by Washington Universities
This law, if enacted, will allow the University of Washington and Washington State University to invest certain public funds in private companies or stock.
Vote to Approve: Creates an exception for the University of Washington and Washington State University that allows both institutions to invest some public funds in private corporations and stock.
Vote to Reject: Public universities will not be excepted in state laws prohibiting the private investment of public funds.
State Advisory Votes 1 and 2
These two votes will not change any current laws or policies. They will merely communicate the opinions of Washington residents concerning two recent actions by the state legislature. Advisory Vote 1 concerns the ending of a tax deduction for financial institutions from interest on residential loans. Advisory Vote 2 concerns the extension of a fuel safety tax on commercial petroleum product purchase, transport, and storage.
Vote to Repeal: Asks the state legislature to repeal the respective actions, but does not require it by law.
Vote to Maintain: Communicates public approval for the respective legislative action.