I’m a big fan of Rep. Sherry Appleton’s ban on paid-per-signature, but I also agree with the Seattle Times in their assesment of the bill:
Oregon already has such a ban. According to Michael Arno, who runs a California signature-gathering firm, the cost of getting a measure on Oregon’s ballot jumped from $175,000 to more than $500,000. In other words, money still talks. You just need more of it.
Which has generally been the logic of initiative reforms recently, lock down the system, and you have fewer people using it. Of course, if you make it more expensive, you also make it so only people who can afford to participate, participating.
It would be better to include in Appleton’s reform a change that would further encourage volunteer particiaption in the initiative process.
Sometimes its hard to tell whether LAs check their members’ email addresses, or if they go straight to the member. In the case of Rep. Sherry Appleton, she checks it:
Thanks Emmett. I am Vice-Chair of the Committee, so I will discuss it with Sam as well. Again thank you for your comments and your idea.
I emailed Rep. Hunt’s legislative assistant to find out if there had been anything new after our meeting. At the time Hunt said he’d talk to the state government committee staff. She had no news, but said that she’d follow up with Hunt for me.
Also, I’m emailing Rep. Sherry Appleton this afternoon to prompt her on the idea. She’d been in front of the paid-per-signature ban (see the post below). I think the printer petition idea would be a nice counter weight.
UPDATE: My email:
Thank you for sponsoring and for speaking out on banning the paid-per-signature model for initiative campaigns. I agree with you that the current way of doing things in regards to initiatives gives far to much power to the well-funded campaigns.
Something else you should consider is reducing the minimum size of initiative petitions to 8.5 by 11. Right now, Washington has the largest minimum size in the country at 11 by 14 inches. By reducing the minimum size of the petition, you allow anyone to print out a petition and circulate it.
I have discussed this idea with my representative, Sam Hunt, who said he would talk about it with the staff of the State Government committee. I have also written about my research on this idea here: https://printerdemocracy.wordpress.com/
Rep. Sherry Appleton is at least talking the right talk about her paid-per-signature ban:
The whole issue behind Initiative and Referendum is it belongs to the people. The framers of the State Constitution envisioned citizens who were passionate about issues – either enacting legislation or repealing what the legislature had passed – to go out to the general public and gather signatures. It was not supposed to be an easy process – we do not have direct democracy but a representative democracy.
It was not supposed to be big business, but a heartfelt response to what action or inaction in the legislature.
Instead of just making it harder for folks to buy their way onto the ballot (a goal I’m 100 percent for, by the way), why not make it easier for citizens to use the initiative process? Right now Washington requires the largest petitions in the country for ballot petitions. There is no real reason for this, but it prevents anyone that doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars on hand from launching any sort of grassroots campaign.
Allowing anyone to print out and circulate a petition would do more to hand the initiative process back to citizens than banning paid-per-signature.
Having not met with many elected officials (well, probably more than most people, but I’m still not used to it) I’d say today’s meeting with Rep. Sam Hunt went well.
As a sort of review, I’d been trying to schedule a meeting with him since summer, but through a series of mishaps and misadventures, I wasn’t able to make it in until the week before session. My plan was to hit him up way before session, but I’m obviously not a pro at this.
Why Rep. Hunt in particular was important to me was because he had two things going for him: he’s one of my representatives (I live in Olympia) and he’s also chair of the State Government Committee, which would be the right committee for this to go through. I guess I’m pretty luck to have my representative in charge of that one.
The meeting itself was pretty quick. I actually was the one who ended it, I thanked him for his time when I thought we’d pretty much covered everything and after he told me that he’d pass the idea by committee staff. That is all he could really say at this point, I guess, get some other minds on the idea.
In general he seemed supportive of the idea, but didn’t give up much about what the chances of an actual bill would be. My main thrust was on the idea that too much of the initiative process has been handed to too few of us because the costs are too high. We started the conversation talking about how a Republican representative had put forward this idea the last few years, but that the idea itself, and how it puts more power in the hands of the people, is actually progressive.
And, here’s something I didn’t know. Rep. Hunt, back when he was regular old Sam Hunt, collected signatures for Initiative 345, which repealed the sales tax on food. He stood outside grocery stores for hours getting people to put their signatures on the line.
After sitting in the Michigan senate for about a year, HB 4328 was passed onto the state’s governor last week. If signed, the bill would change Michigan’s minimum petition size to 8.5 by 11 inches.
Tomorrow I’ll finally sit down with my local representative that has a more direct say in bills that effect the initiative process. Mostly my fault it has taken me so long, and I’m thinking this lateness will really prevent anything happening on Printer Democracy this session.
I’m sure Rep. Hunt already has tons on his plate for this year, and reforming the initiative process (even in a small way) might not be one of them. But, I have my 15 minutes tomorrow morning, so I’ll let you know.
Either way, I have a new handout (pdf file) with proposed bill language on the back, so I’m sure that will help.