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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
You have some important decisions to make in the next four months. There will be a general election on Tuesday, November 5. While you will not be voting for a president, a governor or any legislative races, you will have an opportunity to vote for or against statewide ballot measures, in addition to some local races. As a state representative, I cannot use state resources to advocate for or against anyone, or anything, on a ballot. However, I can inform you about the facts of statewide ballot measures. That's what I'd like to do in this e-mail update – just provide you the facts.
Initiative 517 | Concerns initiative and referendum measures
- Under current law, anyone who wants to propose an initiative measure for a statewide vote can file it with the Secretary of State beginning 10 months before the election in which voters will consider the measure. Initiative measures petitioning the Legislature to enact a proposed measure can be filed with the Secretary of State beginning 10 months before the Legislature's next regular session.
- In addition to statewide initiatives to the people and initiatives to the Legislature, state law enables some types of local governments to allow for the filing of local initiatives and set the requirements for submitting such initiatives.
- Those gathering signatures for petitions, and those signing petitions, receive the same protection from harassment or assault as anyone else, but no further protection.
What would the initiative do?
- Initiative 517 would increase the time for gathering statewide initiative or legislative initiative petition signatures by up to six months.
- Any statewide initiative to the people or local initiative that receives the required number of petition signatures in the required timeframe would have to be submitted to a vote of the people in the next election. Local officials would be required to submit the initiative to a vote – regardless of the subject matter of the initiative measure.
- The initiative would provide that interfering with signature gathering for a state or local initiative or referendum is illegal. Initiative or referendum petition signing and signature gathering would be legally protected on public sidewalks and walkways, and all sidewalks and walkways that carry pedestrians, including those in front of entrances and exits to stores, and inside or outside of public buildings.
How much would it cost?
- Initiative 517 would have no revenue, expenditure or cost impact on state government. (Source: Office of Financial Management)
- There would be no revenue impact on local governments from Initiative 517. However, the expenditure and cost impacts to local governments are indeterminate.
Initiative 522 | Concerns labeling of genetically-engineered foods
- In general, federal law regulates the safety and quality of foods shipped between states. Washington state law regulates the safety and quality of food produced and sold within the state. Both federal and state law identify and regulate foods that are “misbranded” or “adulterated,” but neither federal or state law requires any specific labeling of foods produced using genetic engineering.
- Under state law, the director of the state Department of Agriculture is authorized to condemn, seize and destroy misbranded or adulterated foods and food items. State law imposes many specific labeling and packaging requirements and prohibitions for food and food products, but it does not require any specific labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. No provision of state law treats GE food as adulterated.
- State law also authorizes the director of the state Department of Agriculture to stop the sale of mislabeled agricultural seeds sold in Washington state. Seeds are considered to be misbranded if they are not accurately labeled in compliance with state law, but existing state law does not require that GE seeds be labeled as GE.
What would the initiative do?
- Initiative 522 would impose labeling requirements on GE foods and seeds offered for retail sale in Washington state. The measure defines “genetically engineered” as changes to genetic material produced through techniques that directly insert DNA or RNA into organisms, or that use cell-fusion techniques to overcome natural barriers to cell multiplication or recombination.
- Beginning July 1, 2015, any food produced using genetic engineering that is not labeled as required in the measure would be considered “misbranded.” The measure would require GE raw agricultural commodities to be labeled conspicuously with the words “genetically engineered,” and GE packaged processed foods would have to be labeled conspicuously with the words “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering.”
- The initiative would exempt alcoholic beverages, certified organic foods, foods served in restaurants or in food service establishments, medical food, foods consisting of or derived from animals that have not been genetically engineered, and processed foods produced using GE processing aids or enzymes. Processed foods containing small amounts of GE materials would be exempt until July 1, 2019.
- Beginning July 1, 2015, the initiative would require that GE seeds and seed stock be labeled conspicuously with the words “genetically engineered” or “produced with genetic engineering.”
- The initiative provides that its requirements are to be implemented and enforced by the state Department of Health, instead of the state Department of Agriculture, and would authorize the state Department of Health to assess a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per day for each violation. The state Department of Health, acting through the state Attorney General, could bring an action in superior court to enjoin a person violating the initiative. Separately, after giving 60-days notice, any private person could bring an action in superior court to enjoin a person violating the initiative, and potentially recover costs and attorney fees for the action.
How much would it cost?
- Known state agency implementation costs are estimated at $3,368,000 over six fiscal years. (Source: Office of Financial Management)
- State and local revenue and costs from enforcement activities are indeterminate.
Again, this e-mail update is meant to inform – not persuade – you on two statewide ballot measures. For more information, you may want to visit the Secretary of State's website here and here.
Save the date: Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup
We all care about the environment and want to preserve our forests and waterways for future generations. When it comes to environmental policies, we expect lawmakers to make decisions based on facts and to take into consideration the impacts these decisions have on energy, food, fuel and housing costs. In others words, if we are going to consider policies to help the environment, we need to make sure they don't hurt families.
Senate Bill 5802, which passed the Legislature this year, established the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup. This workgroup is examining policies impacting the cyclical nature of climate, including ones that have worked – and not worked – in other states and countries. It is charged with recommending ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state.
On October 23, this workgroup will hold a public hearing in Seattle. This is an opportunity for your voice to be heard on this issue. The event will be held at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center from 6:00 p.m. to 9:20 p.m. You can find the draft agenda here and directions here.
In your service,
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7967 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000