As six initiatives advance to Legislature, senators call for lawmakers to act

Senate Freedom Caucus members say measures offer public rebuke to majority-party policies

OLYMPIA – As six initiatives advance to the Legislature during the current 2024 Legislative session, senators say they hope the Legislature will do its duty by taking a public vote – rather than taking no action and quietly sending them to the ballot in November.

The lawmakers say a public vote would demonstrate the Legislature’s respect for the people of Washington, who provided a total 2.6 million signatures to place the measures before the Washington House and Senate. The measures take on signature policies adopted by legislative Democrats that have increased gas prices, restricted police, reduced local control of schools, and set the stage for a statewide income tax.

“I realize this might be difficult for our colleagues in the majority party to accept,” said Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, lead Republican on the Senate State Government and Elections Committee. “But the people of this state are saying they have a big problem with the grand schemes our friends have enacted over the last several years.

“They’re telling us state government is asserting too much power and control over our daily lives, making life in Washington too expensive, and forcing us to tolerate crime. If our colleagues think these are good ideas, they ought to be willing to stand up on the floor of the House and Senate and declare that the people are wrong.”

The Secretary of State’s office completed signature checks on the last of the six initiatives Jan. 25, certifying that all of them had received more than 324,000 signatures.

The six initiatives are:

  • Initiative 2113, restoring the ability of police to pursue fleeing suspects,
  • Initiative 2117, repealing the state cap and trade law that has increased Washington gas prices about 50 cents a gallon.
  • Initiative 2081, establishing parental rights in public K-12 schools,
  • Initiative 2019, repealing the state’s new income tax on capital gains,
  • Initiative 2111, banning further efforts to pass income taxes, and
  • Initiative 2124, repealing the state’s new long-term care insurance program and the steep payroll tax that goes with it.

Under the state constitution, initiatives to the Legislature “shall take precedence over all other measures in the Legislature except appropriation bills and shall be either enacted or rejected before the end of … regular session.”

The wording doesn’t require a vote, however. Lawmakers can reject a measure by taking no action. In that case, the initiatives advance to the general election ballot. Lawmakers also have the option of submitting alternative measures for the ballot. However, majority party leaders have said they are content to let the measures go straight to the voters.

Members of the Senate Freedom Caucus say inaction demonstrates disrespect for the people. The four Senate Republican lawmakers advocate for protection of constitutional freedoms and preservation of the political process.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said majority Democrats should at least hold hearings on the six initiative measures. “As senators elected by Washington citizens – by ‘we the people’ – we need to listen to the over two and a half million combined signatories of these six initiatives and give all of these important measures public hearings in the Senate this session. If Democrats refuse to give these initiatives hearings, it will show disrespect to Washingtonians.”

Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham, noted that the people of Washington have voted against an income tax 11 times since 1934 – yet advocates of higher taxes and spending have failed to listen. The most recent rejection came in 2021, when 61 percent of Washington voters said no on an advisory vote opposing the capital gains income tax approved by legislative Democrats earlier that year.

“They’ve been trying for years to get a state income tax, but every time they put it on the ballot, a large margin vote it down,” McCune said. “A state income tax could really damage families in the state of Washington, so lawmakers should embrace Initiative 2111, and explicitly ban any state or local income tax once and for all.”

Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, said, “Those who control the Legislature have been ignoring the voices of the people for far too long. Fortunately, the initiative process gives the people a megaphone. I’m glad that the people are helping us fight back on these burdensome regulations that take food from families’ tables.”