Open Government

WPC's Center for Government Reform's mission is to partner with stakeholders and citizens to work toward a government focused on its core functions while improving its transparency, accountability, performance, and effectiveness for taxpayers.

What's New

Seattle Times endorses WPC's legislative transparency reform recommendations

June 14, 2010 in Blog

The Seattle Times today called on the Legislature to follow our recommendations to improve legislative transparency. From the editorial:

"The Seattle-based Washington Policy Center has a common-sense proposal to prohibit several practices used by legislators to ram through bills in a hurry. These practices were much in evidence in the recent session.

Because the proposal would bind lawmakers, it would have to be a state constitutional amendment. It would require that no bill be passed without a public hearing, no hearing be held on a bill until it has been introduced for 72 hours and no title-only bill be introduced . . .

Analysts need time to read the bills !
so that interested parties, the press and the public can find out what is in them. This is a simple matter. It is not too much to ask, even if it takes a constitutional amendment to do it."

The Columbian and The Olympian have also endorsed our proposed transparency reforms.

Washington doesn't need an income tax

June 14, 2010 in In the News
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Monday, June 14, 2010

Judge removes "job creation" from R-52 ballot title

June 11, 2010 in Blog

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy issued a ruling today in the Association of Washington Business (AWB) challenge to R-52's (bonds bill) ballot title. 

Opening the hearing Judge Murphy said, “This is a unique case even in the world of ballot titles.”

Murphy was clearly skeptical of including the claim of job creation in the ballot title.

In a question to the counsel for Yes on Schools and Jobs, Murphy asked, "Would you agree that there is no language in the bill itself with regard to benchmarks or requirements for job creation?"

Counsel responded, "Yes I would agree there are no benchmarks in there but that is not needed – implied."

Later Murphy asked the state's attorney Jeff Even, "The actual language!
of the bill doesn’t have any teeth with the concept of job creation; is a job actually created or is it maintained?”  

Todd Myers, Environmental Director at WPC, was encouraged by the judge's skepticism of the claim of job creation.

“The judge recognized that there is a difference between the promise of job creation and the reality. Countries like Spain who have followed this approach have seen more jobs killed than created, so assuming that it will ‘create jobs’ is not appropriate,” said Myers.

Issuing her ruling Murphy said "it is inappropriate" to include the phrase promote job creation or create jobs in the ballot title.

Along with striking the job creation sections, Murphy added the language proposed by the Attorney General to reference the sales tax on bottled water being continued.

All parties agreed some reference to the bottled water tax was necessary to avoid constitutional issues.

Here !
is the new R-52 ballot title as ordered by Judge Murphy:

Statement of Subject (adopted as proposed by Attorney General)

"The legislature has passed Engrossed
House Bill No. 2561, concerning authorizing and funding bonds for
energy efficiency projects in schools."

Concise Description (written by Murphy)

“This bill would authorize bonds to finance construction and
repair projects increasing energy efficiency in public schools and
higher education buildings, and continue the sales tax on bottled water
otherwise expiring in 2013.”

So why does any of this matter?

As noted by Even, “It’s often true the only thing a voter sees about a measure is the ballot title itself.”

Washington doesn’t need income tax

June 11, 2010 in In the News
Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor)
Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor)
Friday, June 11, 2010

All sides agree: Change R-52's ballot title

June 10, 2010 in Blog

Tomorrow morning a ballot title challenge to R-52 ($505 million bonds bill) will be heard in Thurston County Superior Court. Based on the legal fillings, I put the chances of the judge changing the Legislature's proposed ballot title at 100%.

What the change will be is a different story.

First some background. Per HB 2561, the current ballot title reads:

"The legislature has
passed Engrossed House Bill No. 2561 (this act), concerning job
creation through energy efficiency projects in school buildings. This
bill would promote job creation by authorizing bonds to construct
energy efficiency savings improvements to schools, including higher
education buildings."

During the Senate floor debate on the bill Republicans argued that this ballot title was inaccurate and would invite a legal challenge since it omitted the fact voters were being asked to make the temporary tax on bottled water permanent.

Thus Senator Parlette offered an amendment to change it to read:

legislature has passed Engrossed House Bill No. 2561 (this act),
concerning job creation through energy efficiency projects in school
buildings. This bill authorizes bonds in excess of the Article VIII,
section 1 constitutional debt limit to construct school energy
efficiency improvements, and makes permanent the sales tax on bottled

The amendment failed by a vote of 16-30.