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The Gristle

Taking the initiative

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TAKING THE INITIATIVE: Washington voters appear to support all four of the major initiatives on the state ballot this year, some strongly, according to a KING 5 News poll released last week. Two potentially worsen near-term prospects for funding public education. The other two would set Washington at the forefront of evolving national opinion on matters of social justice, potentially triggering a federal response.

Tentative support was registered for the charter school initiative (I-1240), with just 49 percent saying they support it compared with 30 percent against it. Nearly one likely voter in five said they were undecided. The initiative would authorize the creation of up to 40 charter schools across the state, each competing with and for public school dollars.

Voters more strongly support Tim Eyman’s perennial tax limit (I-1185), which would strengthen law that requires supermajority votes in the Legislature to enact any tax increases, and impose majority votes for any fee increases. The measure is supported by 56 percent of surveyed voters, with 26 percent opposed.

The Washington State Supreme Court heard arguments last month that such supermajority restrictions may, in fact, require a change to the state’s constitution. Attorneys on behalf of public schools and educators argued that the state’s governing document requires only a simple majority of the legislature to pass a bill, including budget authorizations. The state Attorney General argued that a ruling would be premature and that the plaintiffs cannot show legal harm from voter-imposed restrictions.

Indeed, court justices spent most of their time considering the justiciability of the complaint, whether the matter is “ripe” for the courts, given the legislature itself has made no attempt to overturn voter restrictions. Informing their deliberations, however, is the unanimous ruling by the same court in January that the state was not meeting its constitutional requirement to appropriately fund public education. Justices issued a stern warning to the legislature to solve the revenue issue for state schools, in effect triggering last month’s complaint from educators.

While it is unlikely the court will rule before the election, their decision could potentially nullify Eyman’s initiative 1185.

More than half of recent poll respondents—55 percent—also said they support R-74, the referendum to affirm the same-sex marriage law passed early this year by the legislature. Forty percent said they were opposed, and just 6 percent said they remain undecided. The margin of support on the issue has been steadily widening since January 2012.

In that month, Washington joined eight states, including the District of Columbia, to allow such civil partnerships. Uniquely, if R-74 passes in November, Washington would be the first in the nation to affirmatively approve marriage equality by popular referendum.

Federal law remains on the books as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, prohibiting the federal government from recognizing such unions; and the U.S. Supreme Court may certainly soon take up the question, following recent district court rulings (affirmed by higher courts) that the State holds no interest in denying civil rights to a large portion of the population.

Supported even more strongly in the polls is the marijuana legalization initiative (I-502), backed by 57 percent of likely voters, the September poll found. Only 33 percent oppose the measure, with 10 percent saying they remain undecided. If passed in November, the measure would decriminalize marijuana possession by adults and provide a roadmap for the legal production and sale of marijuana, subject to licensing and regulation controls. The law would refocus law enforcement resources on DUI prosecution and other drug-related crime.

Marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law, meaning approval of this law in Washington would likely trigger a stern response by federal drug control authorities. Yet—in a manner analogous to marriage equality—the nation’s drug laws are being actively resisted by states like Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, perhaps signaling a new social dynamic that might force their reconsideration at the federal level.

A news story out of Snohomish County this week only underscores the tragic failure of the nation’s drug laws, as a 22-year-old—incarcerated on a misdemeanor charge for simple possession of marijuana—died while in custody in an overcrowded jail of food-related allergies.

A report released this week found Washington has arrested more than 240,000 people on simple possession charges since 1986. In an accelerating trend, half of those arrests occurred in just the last 10 years, at a cost to taxpayers of up to $300 million.

Economics favor the latter initiatives.

A UCLA study estimated the impact of allowing same-sex couples to marry on Washington’s state budget. The study concluded that allowing same-sex couples to marry will result in a net gain of approximately $3.9 million to $5.7 million each year for the state. This net impact will result from savings in expenditures on state means-tested public benefits programs and from an increase in sales tax revenue from weddings and wedding-related tourism.

More remarkable are the economics in support of marijuana reform.

Preparing the referendum for ballot, the state Office of Financial Management indicated the measure could generate up to $530 million per in new tax resources for public investments, including health care and drug treatment. Revenues would come from increased business and occupation tax from marijuana sales, coupled with new marijuana excise taxes and fees levied on marijuana farmers, wholesalers, and retailers, essentially spawning an entirely new segment of legal business in Washington.

Ticket Cascadia
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Twice Zero

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Events
Today
Santa in Town

12:00pm|Yeager's Toyland

Peter and the Starcatcher

7:30pm

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|4145 Meridian St.

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm|Warm Beach Camp

Irving Berlin's White Christmas

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Happy Elf

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

A Christmas Story

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Homemade Christmas Bazaar

9:00am|Blaine Senior Center

Toys for Tots

9:00am|1650 Birchwood Ave

20th annual Pacific Arts Market

10:00am|Sunset Square

Holiday Book Sale

10:00am| Blaine Library

Holiday Port Festival

12:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Olde Fashioned Christmas

5:00pm|Pioneer Park

Festival of Lights

5:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Santa Train

5:00pm|Miniature Fun Center

Art on Tap

6:00pm|Alley District

Holiday Art Walk

6:00pm|Anacortes

Holiday Make.Sale

6:00pm|Make.Shift Art Space

Glad Tidings Christmas Concerts

7:00pm|First United Methodist Church

Saving Christmas Town

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Pippi Longstocking

7:00pm| BAAY Theatre

Carols of the World

7:30pm|Anacortes United Methodist

A Duet of Nutcrackers

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Nutcracker

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Ghosts and Games

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Fifth annual Aerial Showcase

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Old Fashioned Holiday Weekend

8:00am|Downtown Mount Vernon

Sinterklaas Breakfast

8:00am|Lynden Community Center

Old Fashioned Holiday Weekend

8:00am|Downtown Mount Vernon

Santa Breakfast

8:30am|Maple Hall

Grapevine Wreath Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Girls on the Run Fall 5K

9:00am| Skagit Valley College

Skagit Valley Jingle Bell Run

9:00am|Burlington Visitor Cente

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Bellingham Christ the King

Fairhaven Frosty

10:00am| Fairhaven Park

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sleighbells Ring

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Holiday Book Sale

10:00am|Ferndale Library

Glass Art Open House

10:00am|Morrison Glass Art

20th annual Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am|Howard Miller Steelhead Park

Skagit Journey

10:00am|Sharpe Park

Green Eileen Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Ragfinery

Holiday Open House

11:00am| La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum

Holiday Gifts for the Kitchen

11:00am|Lynden Library

Faihaven Holiday Events

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Inn

Celebrate the Season

12:00pm|Port of Anacortes Event Center

NSEA Work Party

12:00pm| Little Squalicum Park

Tea and Music

1:00pm|Deming Library

Traditional Jazz

2:00pm|VFW Hall

Holiday Lights Obstacle Dash

2:30pm|H Street Plaza

Memory Into Memoir

3:00pm|Village Books

Bellingham Chamber Chorale

3:00pm|First Congregational Church

Seeds and Pianos

4:00pm|Village Books

Community Tree Lighting

4:30pm|Gilkey Square

Western Winds, Western Brass

4:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Objectification Opening

5:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Bellingham Bay Lighted Boat Parade

5:30pm|Bellingham Bay

Light up the holidays

5:30pm|Depot Market Square

26th annual Lighted Parade

6:00pm|Downtown Lynden

Boat Parade Viewing Fundraiser

6:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

The Coats

7:00pm|Bellingham High School

Edward Albee Reading Series

7:30pm|idiOM Theater

Pearl Django

7:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Motherlode

7:30pm|Fairhaven College Auditorium

Salsa Night

9:30pm|Cafe Rumba

MBT Tenors Swinomish 2016
Tomorrow
Santa in Town

12:00pm|Yeager's Toyland

Peter and the Starcatcher

7:30pm

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|4145 Meridian St.

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm|Warm Beach Camp

A Christmas Story

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Irving Berlin's White Christmas

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Happy Elf

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

20th annual Pacific Arts Market

10:00am|Sunset Square

Holiday Port Festival

12:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Olde Fashioned Christmas

5:00pm|Pioneer Park

Santa Train

5:00pm|Miniature Fun Center

Glad Tidings Christmas Concerts

7:00pm|First United Methodist Church

Pippi Longstocking

7:00pm| BAAY Theatre

Carols of the World

7:30pm|Anacortes United Methodist

The Nutcracker

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Old Fashioned Holiday Weekend

8:00am|Downtown Mount Vernon

Old Fashioned Holiday Weekend

8:00am|Downtown Mount Vernon

Holiday Book Sale

10:00am|Ferndale Library

Sleighbells Ring

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

20th annual Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am|Howard Miller Steelhead Park

Celebrate the Season

12:00pm|Port of Anacortes Event Center

Community Breakfast

8:00am|Rome Grange

Silver Tea

2:00pm|Everson Library

Silver Tea

2:00pm|Everson Library

Robrert Lashley Reading

4:00pm|Leopold Crystal Ballroom

Christmas Parade

5:00pm|Downtown Mount Vernon

A Shayna Maidel Auditions

7:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Working through the hard stuff

7:00pm

Village Books Swinomish 2016
Monday
Santa in Town

12:00pm|Yeager's Toyland

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|4145 Meridian St.

Carols of the World

7:30pm|Anacortes United Methodist

A Shayna Maidel Auditions

7:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Snowshoeing Basics

6:00pm|REI

Northwest Owls

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

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