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Washington Democrats: half of initiatives will get hearings, half will not

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(The Center Square) – Three out of six initiatives to the Legislature will receive public hearings, Democratic leaders confirmed on Friday afternoon.

The three measures getting public hearings are Initiative 2081 to establish a parental bill of rights relating to their children’s public school education, Initiative 2111 to prohibit state and local governments from enacting a personal income tax, and Initiative 2113 to remove certain restrictions on when police officers may engage in vehicular pursuits.

The three measures not getting public hearings are Initiative 2109 to repeal the capital gains tax, Initiative 2117 to repeal the Climate Commitment Act, and Initiative 2124 to allow more people to opt out of the state’s long-term care program.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, put out a news release explaining their rationale.

“The three initiatives we are not taking action on would have a dire effect on the day-to-day lives of every single Washingtonian,” the two legislators said. “These initiatives would dramatically decrease quality of life and devastate progress on K-12 education, childcare, clean air, clean water, climate action, and aging with dignity – matters that are important to people across the state. The fiscal notes on I-2109 and I-2117 confirm this and we expect the final fiscal note on I-2124 to reveal the same.”

They also addressed the three measures that will get public hearings.

“The effect of the remaining three initiatives is less obvious,” Billig and Jinkins said. “Hearings will allow us to gather more information and hear from the public and others so that we can make informed decisions. These initiatives will have a lasting effect on all Washingtonians. It is crucial we have every bit of information available and at our disposal so that we fully understand the consequences – both intended and not – of these initiatives and the ways they will affect the lives of every Washingtonian.”

The House and Senate will hold joint public hearings on I-2081, I-2111 and I-2113 on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28. Hearing times will be confirmed next week, according to the news release.

Voter advocacy group Let’s Go Washington gathered 2.6 million signatures in their effort to get the six initiatives on the ballot.

The Legislature may approve the initiatives – which they have said is unlikely – 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.

“The fact Democrats in the Legislature have scheduled three hearings is a step in the right direction,” Let’s Go Washington founder Brian Heywood said in a news release. “Next, they need to pass those three initiatives into law to stop an income tax, restore reasonable police pursuit, and reestablish parents as the primary stakeholders in their children’s lives.”

He expressed disappointment that all six initiatives won’t be getting public hearings.

“At the same time, voters who signed these initiatives have been asking why only these three are getting hearings,” Heywood said. “What about the hidden gas tax, the hidden income tax, and the mandatory payroll tax.”

He concluded, “It is intriguing to me that the pet projects of [Gov.] Jay Inslee and his crony union bosses won’t be getting hearings. Voters have said that all six of these issues are important, and they deserve to be heard.”

Billig and Jinkins framed voters’ choice as between the haves and the have-nots.

“Washington voters will hear a lot between now and November on any initiatives that end up on the ballot,” they said. “It will be up to them to decide what sort of state they want to live in. For example, they’ll have the chance to choose between tax cuts for the super-rich or affordable childcare for families across Washington.”

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