Op-Ed: State founders ensure the power of the people to govern themselves

When Washington’s founders wrote our state’s Constitution in 1889, they made sure the ultimate sovereignty of government is reserved for the people. The first article of the state Constitution says “all political power is inherent in the people” and “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It ensured the people would have the right to decide how they were to be governed. In 1912, Washingtonians exercised this constitutional right by becoming one of the first states in the nation to adopt the initiative and referendum process. By doing so, citizens secured their rights to make and remake our laws, and to provide a check over the decisions of the Legislature.

In November, Washington voters will have the opportunity to make decisions on three “initiatives to the people.”

Initiative 1125 would require the Legislature, not the state Transportation Commission, to set state highway tolls, and mandate that a toll on a particular road or bridge be used only for construction, operation, or maintenance of that project. Supporters say the measure would ensure highway lanes funded with toll revenues could not be transferred or used for non-highway purposes, and would also make funding more accountable since the decisions would come from elected leaders, not appointed commissioners. Opponents say Washington state would be unable to sell toll-backed bonds if tolls are required to be set by the Legislature – and that, they say, could jeopardize funding for highway projects.

Initiative 1163 would require background checks and training for long-term care workers and providers. Supporters say the measure would ensure greater safety and quality care for frail senior citizens and people with disabilities. Opponents say the measure would cost taxpayers $80 million to fund a private union training program.

Initiative 1183 would close state liquor stores and sell their assets, including the liquor distribution center. It would allow private stores to sell liquor and create licensing fees for sale and distribution of liquor based on sales revenue. Supporters say the measure will get the state out of the liquor business, strengthen laws governing the sale of liquor, and generate millions in new revenue for state and local services. Opponents say expansion of access would lead to greater problem drinking and give chain stores a greater competitive advantage over smaller grocers.

Washington’s founders also wisely knew our state Constitution needed a process to be amended. So they added a section that allows all voters a say in whether it should be changed. Article 23 says an amendment, proposed by the House or Senate as a “joint resolution,” must receive approval from two-thirds of the state Legislature. If this occurs, it appears on the ballot for the next general election. If a simple majority of voters approve, the amendment is ratified.

During the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers advanced two state Constitutional amendments to the November general election.

Senate Joint Resolution 8205 would remove a 60-day residency requirement to vote in presidential elections and change it to the standard requirement of 30 days prior to the election.

Senate Joint Resolution 8206 would amend the Constitution to provide a budget stabilization account maintained in the state treasury. The amendment would require the Legislature to transfer additional money to the account each biennium when the state has received “extraordinary revenue growth.”

For more information on each of these measures, I encourage you to go to the Secretary of State’s election Web site at: www.sos.wa.gov/elections and click on “2011 General Election Online Voters Guide.”

As a state representative, I cannot use state resources to advocate either for – or against – any measure or candidate that appears on a ballot. However, I can educate constituents on these and other legislative issues. I encourage you to become familiar with these ballot proposals and then exercise your right to vote in the general election, Nov. 8.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus and represents the 39th Legislative District. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him through his Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.

State Representative Dan Kristiansen, 39th Legislative District
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7967 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000