SB 5386, a bill to make major changes to people’s initiative process

Jan 25, 2018

Download file Download the full legislative memo here

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would add new hurdles for qualifying a statewide ballot measure. SB 5386 was heard by lawmakers last session but not acted on. It is being reconsidered this session. Among the changes the bill would make to the people’s initiative process are increasing the filing fee from $5 to $500 and allowing anyone to file a legal challenge before voters act on an initiative.
People’s right of initiative 
Before addressing the policy specifics of the bill, it is important to consider how difficult it is currently to get an initiative measure qualified for the ballot. In fact, last year no initiative proposals made it to the ballot.

What exactly is our right as citizens for initiatives? According to Article 1, Section 1 of the state constitution: 

“All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

It is because of this clear authority of power of the people over their government that before any legislative powers are granted, the people reserve for themselves basic lawmaking authority. This power is explained in Article 2, Section 1:

“The legislative authority of the state of Washington shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and house of representatives, which shall be called the legislature of the state of Washington, but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature. (a) Initiative: The first power reserved by the people is the initiative.”

This is why any proposed changes to the basic lawmaking power of the people needs serious scrutiny. 

Download file Download the full legislative memo here