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Olympia rallygoers demand Democrats hold hearings on voter-backed initiatives

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(The Center Square) – A group of Washingtonians turned out Wednesday afternoon at the steps of the Capitol building in Olympia to demand lawmakers follow the state’s constitution and act on six certified initiatives.

In December, the Let’s Go Washington voter advocacy group turned in 2.6 million signatures on initiatives to loosen restrictions on allowing police to pursue dangerous criminals, repeal the carbon tax, establish parental rights in public schools, abolish the capital gains tax, allow people who are employed to opt out of the state’s long-term care program, and ban further efforts to pass income taxes.

Initiative supporters pointed out that majority party Democrats in the Legislature seem reluctant to grant the six initiatives priority.

“We are here today to ask the public servants in the [Legislative] building behind us to do one simple thing: to give these initiatives hearings,” Brandi Kruse, host of the “UnDivided” podcast, told the crowd. “We want them to take just a small amount of time to hear from the Washingtonians who are negatively impacted by their policies.”

She pointed out that every initiative to the Legislature since 2004 has been given a hearing.

“This is about doing something that we should not have to beg them to do,” Kruse said.

House Minority Leader Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, said the six initiatives aren’t getting traction in the Legislature.

“Every time an initiative to the Legislature is introduced, it gets referred to a committee. That’s true of initiatives. That’s true of every bill,” he explained. “And we’ve had about 2,000 bills so far this session … and so every time one of those six initiatives has been introduced on the floor and referred to a committee, House Republicans have made a parliamentary motion to instruct that committee to hold a hearing. At every turn that motion has been voted down, with every House Democrat opposing the motion to hold a hearing.”

Stokesbary went on to recognize lawmakers’ obligations regarding the six initiatives, noting “the state constitution is clear: these initiatives shall take precedence over all other measures.”

Under the state constitution, initiatives to the Legislature “shall take precedence over all other measures in the Legislature except appropriation bills and shall be either enacted or rejected before the end of … regular session.”

Republican Party Chair Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, filed and officially sponsored the six initiatives.

“We need to get control of the process of the growth of government in this state,” he said.

He exhorted the crowd to keep fighting on behalf of the six initiatives.

“We need to restore what’s good,” Walsh said. “That’s what this project is about. It’s about fixing what’s broken and reclaiming the good.”

He concluded, “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up. We won’t. You don’t.”

The Legislature may approve the initiatives or send them to voters. If an initiative is rejected by the Legislature or the Legislature takes no action by the end of the session on March 7, the secretary of state will certify the initiative for the next November general election. The Legislature may also pass an alternative proposal to accompany an initiative on the ballot.

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