Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Response to Benton email to House Caucus on SHB 2552

I've beat on one of my local representatives for taking this vote.  Rep. Brandon Vick co-sponsored and voted for SHB 2552, which I still believe is a bad bill.

That said, Sen. Don Benton took it a step further and blasted those in the House Republican Caucus as a group for their votes.

What follows is the email thread that consists of Tim Eyman's email at the bottom, Sen. Benton's email to the House Caucus in the middle, and Rep. Joel Kretz's response to Sen. Benton first.
From: Kretz, Rep. Joel
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 8:27 AM
To: Benton, Sen. Don

Cc: @SRC Members; Tom, Sen. Rodney; Sheldon, Sen. Timothy; Troyer, James; @HRC Members

Subject: E-Mail Alert - Don Benton
Senator Benton, I wanted to alert you that someone may have hacked your online account and sent the below-attached message from your e-mail address!  I think this because there is no way that you, a fine gentleman who:
  • voted to enact collective bargaining for state employees in 2002;
  • voted to authorize collective bargaining for WSU employees in 2008;
  • voted multiple times with the union positions on industrial insurance and apprentice programs in 2008 and 2009
  • voted to enact the Democratic budget in 2006;
  • supported union mandates for electricians in 2012;
  • voted to enact job-killing climate change and emissions laws in 2004, 2005 and 2007;
  • voted for mandates requiring businesses to provide family leave in 2007; and
  • as chair of the Senate's Facilities & Operations Committee has continued to hold closed-door meetings from which the press and public are excluded,
    could possibly be chastising other elected officials for voting the "wrong" way on a bill.  We all know the high ethical standard to which you hold yourself, so there is no way I can believe that you—who has so often crossed his own caucus and voted for Democratic bills for what some uncharitable observers might say were self-serving reasons—would be so shameless as to try and take to task fellow elected officials whom you judge "guilty" of the same party-crossing conduct for which you are so rightly famous.

    Obviously, this cannot be the real Don Benton, whom we know to be a principled civic leader who, like the elected officials castigated in the e-mail, votes his conscience and seeks to do what is best for his constituents and the people of our great state.  This is why, of course, no one in the House of Representatives Republican Caucus ever took to e-mail to attack you, publicly or privately, for your votes, because such behavior is beneath the dignity of honorable people (and, quite frankly, it would makes us all look ridiculous).

    Moreover, this same e-mail supposedly from you also includes a fundraising appeal, which is a violation of our ethics and campaign laws and the "freeze" on fundraising which applies to all of us during the legislative Session.  There is no way that the paragon of ethics that is the real Senator Benton would ever have inadvertently sent such a solicitation using his state e-mail, of course.

    And, of course, it goes without saying that all of us strongly support the initiative process and the people's right to be involved with that process and active in their government.

    Please take steps to secure your account to ensure that no further silly attacks on colleagues purporting to be from you are made in the future.

    Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.  With that, please join me in tackling the problems of our state in the remainder of the legislative session, and let there be no more sniping at one another or grandstanding for outside groups.  We have better things to do with the offices with which our citizens have entrusted us.
    Best regards,

    Joel Kretz

    Deputy Republican Leader

From: Hunter, Matt [] On Behalf Of Benton, Sen. Don

Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 12:51 PM

To: Buys, Rep. Vincent; Christian, Rep. Leonard; Haler, Rep. Larry; Hayes, Rep. Dave; Hope, Rep. Mike; Klippert, Rep. Brad; Kochmar, Rep. Linda; Muri, Rep. Dick; Nealey, Rep. Terry; Schmick, Rep. Joe; Short, Rep. Shelly; Smith, Rep. Norma; Vick, Rep. Brandon; Zeiger, Rep. Hans

Subject: As a fellow Republican legislator, I am deeply disturbed by your yes vote on HB 2552

Importance: High
As a fellow Republican legislator, I am deeply disturbed by your yes vote on the Democrats' House Bill 2552.
I did my due diligence and checked and confirmed that you did, in fact, vote for HB 2552 and I was completely surprised to see your name on the list. Republicans in the Legislature have diligently defended the initiative process from legislative assault by Democrats going back as far as 2003. Every year, the Democrats propose eliminating the initiative process, increases in filing fees, and imposing ridiculous new burdens on signature collection. Each and every time, the Republicans have stood firm against the Democrats' arrogance. We've stood up to pressure from the unions and special interests to join the Democrats in pushing these additional burdens on the citizen initiative process. After all, the initiative process is a constitutional right of all Washingtonians.
HB 2552 is one of the most oppressive Big Government anti-initiative bills they've ever tried. And you voted for it! Even the ACLU opposes it. Remember the words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, ... and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Please check the details in the bill! I was on the receiving end of the same rhetoric as you, claiming it was a small change and that it protected private property rights. Not true. It's filled with a laundry list of burdens that simply cannot be justified.
I strongly urge you to rethink your support for the Democrats' bill. Republicans in the Senate, specifically the members of Senate Government Operations Committee, are adamantly opposed to this terrible legislation that restricts every citizen’s constitutional right.
Don Benton
Deputy Majority Leader
Washington State Senate Republican Caucus
17th Legislative District
Phone: 360.786.7632

-- END --

Here's a list of the House Republicans who VOTED FOR the Democrats' anti-initiative bill last Tuesday:

Please cut and paste these addresses into the "To" line of your email and send them a message with your thoughts on their vote. "Why are you helping the Democrats and their union goons strangle the initiative process?" is a good way to start your message to them.

Here's our email from yesterday on it:

Monday, February 24th, 2014
To: Our thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc'd to the media, house & senate members, and Governor)
From: Tim Eyman, Jack & Mike Fagan, initiative co-sponsors, 2/3 Constitutional Amendment, 425-493-9127,,
RE: The Democrats' most vile, onerous, unconstitutional anti-initiative bill in state history -- AND THE REPUBLICANS WHO VOTED FOR IT

Crazy liberals repeatedly say that it is too burdensome to require citizens to show photo ID in order to vote. They even say, and some courts have agreed, that it is an unconstitutional burden.
Yet these same crazy liberals are pushing House Bill 2552 which requires citizens exercising their First Amendment rights by petitioning their government (asking fellow citizens to sign initiative petitions) to first be registered by the government, licensed by the government, trained by the government, be subjected to criminal background checks, and provide a photo headshot, name and home address to the government.

For many years, the Democrats and their union backers have pushed anti-initiative bills to gut the initiative process. Year after year, a broad coalition of folks have successfully beaten back their legislative efforts to destroy the initiative process by regulating it to death.
The Democrats' most vile, onerous, unconstitutional anti-initiative bill in state history -- HB 2552 -- was approved by the House last week:
1) It will destroy volunteer signature gathering. Currently, the back of petitions include a space for the person who collected the signatures to put their name -- the courts have interpreted this law and said it is not required to be filled out. HB 2552 makes it mandatory and massively expands the information the person must supply: HB 2552 requires the person's signature, date of signature, printed name, printed address, printed city, printed state, printed zip code. And to make it particularly burdensome, the bill mandates that it must be done by hand on every sheet (no stamps allowed). In 2006, the first year that just the name was asked for, 17000 petition sheets were turned in and 3000 sheets came from our volunteers who didn't include their name on the back. Under HB 2552, even fewer volunteers will collect signatures because each sheet must be individually filled out on the back and a huge amount of personal information must be handwritten on each sheet. What'll happen then? Initiative campaigns will become even more reliant on paid petitioning. And under the bill, the initiative's sponsor is fined $500 for each sheet not filled out. What will initiative sponsors do? To avoid the fine, they will throw away and never submit all the petition sheets that are not filled out, meaning thousands of valid voter signatures will never be turned in and counted. This will destroy volunteer signature collection, resulting in increased reliance on paid petitioners (the opposite of what we all want).
2) HB 2552 requires citizens who collect signatures to first register with the government, receive a license after completing an as-yet-designed training program, be subjected to criminal background checks, provide their name, home address, and photo headshot to the government. Many won't do all that, limiting the pool of participants. Those who do go through that gauntlet will be extremely vulnerable to harassment: HB 2552 makes it simple for opponents of initiatives to shut down any signature drive. They'll know exactly who to target and harass. Union goons have been trying for years to target them: "If you see a signature gatherer, we suggest you ask signature gatherers if they are being paid, find out their names and take their pictures (alone). 'We would like to identify as many as possible.'" "Keep an eye out. The best way to beat this is at the signature gathering stage. Please let us know if you see those paid signature hunters in your area and let them know in no uncertain terms what their job will do to your job! Every signature we stop is one more Eyman has to pay for." "If you see a signature gatherer, call us. We want to do all we can to stop them." (from the website of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees (AFSCME - AFL-CIO)
3) The courts have determined that petitioning is core political speech. To pass the courts, any burden imposed by the government on core political speech requires:
a) a substantial problem must be identified.
b) if there's a substantial problem identified, then the proposed burdens on the core political speech must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest.
SUBSTANTIAL PROBLEM? Responding to a public records request, the Secretary of State confirmed that from 1999 through 2009, there were zero instances of verified forgeries or fraud in the signature gathering process.
1999 - 2009: 10.5 million signatures, 36 ballot measures, thousands of petitioners, zero instances of bad signatures.

2010: 2.2 million signatures, 6 ballot measures, thousands of petitioners, the Secretary of State identified 1 SEIU volunteer with bad sigs. None of the SEIU's bad signatures counted.
2011: 1.1 million signatures, 3 ballot measures, thousands of petitioners, the Secretary of State identified 1 SEIU hourly worker with bad sigs. None of the SEIU's bad signatures counted.
2012: 1.3 million signatures, 4 ballot measures, thousands of petitioners, the Secretary of State identified 1 local petitioner with bad sigs. None of the bad signatures counted.
2013: 700,000 signatures, 2 ballot measures, thousands of petitioners, the Secretary of State identified 3 petitioners with bad sigs. None of the bad signatures counted.
2014: 690,000 signatures, 2 ballot measures, thousands of petitioners, the Secretary of State confirms that there were zero instances of bad sigs.
1999 - 2014: 16.5 million signatures, 53 ballot measures, thousands of petitioners, no bad signatures counted.
NARROWLY TAILORED? HB 2552 will radically decrease the number of citizens willing to participate in the initiative process by imposing massive burdens. And to accomplish what? Burdening everyone to find the handful WHO ARE ALREADY BEING CAUGHT UNDER THE CURRENT SYSTEM!
COMPELLING GOVERNMENTAL INTEREST? HB 2552 doesn't have one, unless the governmental interest is regulating-to-death the initiative process.
COST? $300,000 for the Secretary of State to create and oversee an as-yet-determined training program. Isn't there a better place to spend $300,000?
WHAT DO NEWSPAPERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT? HB 2552 is a knock-off of 2010's SB 6449:
OLYMPIAN EDITORIAL: Don’t take away citizens’ right to petition -- Senate Bill 6449 "goes too far. The Senate bill would intimidate sponsors and businesses from collecting signatures of voters. The legislation is clearly a shot across the bow of initiative sponsor Tim Eyman who has pressed multiple measures to the ballot. As Eyman says, “This is supposed to be a citizen process, not government sanctioned process.” Lawmakers should reject Senate Bill 6449. Lawmakers must remember that erecting more barriers to the citizens’ power to petition their government chips away at the very foundation of democracy.

WALLA WALLA UNION BULLETIN EDITORIAL:"Legislators are also considering ... imposing new rules - with added paperwork - for those collecting signatures. This is the wrong approach. It has the potential to muffle free speech. Lawmakers shouldn't tinker with the initiative process - it's not broken."

BELLINGHAM HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD:Legislature must not attempt to obstruct initiative process: Every year, it seems, some legislators decide to attack our state’s initiative process. As always, we deplore those attacks. The initiative process is a constitutional right in Washington, spelled out very clearly in our state constitution. There really has to be something better for the Legislature to spend its time on. This bill, like others suggested in previous years, seems like the Legislature trying to do anything it can to limit the right of citizens to create initiatives. That is a serious mistake, one that we urge legislators to reject.

CENTRALIA CHRONICLE EDITORIAL BOARD:"Signature Process Isn't Broken, Doesn't Need Democrats' Fix": "Legislative Democrats trying to make it tougher to get initiatives and referendums on the ballot have introduced other measures, as well, including registering signature gatherers. These other measures amount mostly to harassment and to that extent would further impinge on free speech and petition rights."

SPOKESMAN REVIEW EDITORIAL BOARD:Reject bill imposing rules on signature gatherers: it "unreasonably attempts to avoid the mess by making it harder for citizens to use the initiative and referendum recourse that has been available to them for nearly a century. ... That is cumbersome if not onerous – all to discourage citizens from writing their own laws or repealing those passed by the Legislature. ... Ultimately, individual voters still choose whether to sign a petition and how to vote. The Legislature is facing a plan that would restrict those choices. The plan needs to be rejected."

COLUMBIAN EDITORIAL BOARD: Blocking democracy: Two misguided solutions to nonexistent problems are clattering around the Legislature. They should be ignored and discounted for precisely what they are: blatant attempts to obstruct public participation in government. (Legislators) want to erect frivolous hoops through which signature gathers would have to jump. We're more interested in democracy than gymnastics.

TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE:Some legislative Democrats have sought to rein in the initiative process for years ... Eyman testified Thursday, though, that the regulations are so onerous they would shut down the initiative process and silence voters. Rep. Mark Miloscia agreed. “I think Tim Eyman was kind of right – it’s just going to gum up the works with no benefit,” the Federal Way Democrat said.
Our state Constitution makes it clear that the Legislature can only pass bills that facilitate the initiative process, they cannot pass bills that frustrate it. HB 2552 certainly does not make the process easier, it makes it radically harder. It should be rejected.
But here's a list of the House Republicans who VOTED FOR the Democrats' anti-initiative bill last Tuesday:
Please cut and paste these addresses into the "To" line of your email and send them a message with your thoughts on their vote. "Why are you helping the Democrats and their union goons strangle the initiative process?" is a good way to start your message to them.
We're moving full steam ahead on the 2/3 Constitutional Amendment Initiative I-1325. What do we need RIGHT NOW? Your financial support. We need a big war-chest to print up petitions and mail them to hundreds of thousands of voters throughout the state. We need your help.
Please contribute TODAY so this initiative effort is a success. Send us a donation for $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000, $2500, $5000 or more (there are no limits on how much can be given). You can make a secure PayPal / VISA / MC contribution by going to our website -- -- OR, you can print this form, fill it out, and return it with a check or credit card information. Either way, please send in your most generous donation RIGHT NOW. And please consider a monthly contribution. This initiative effort will be hard, but it will be worth it!
Please support our 2/3 Constitutional Amendment to guarantee permanent protection from higher taxes. Thank you.
Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, & Mike Fagan, initiative co-sponsors, 2/3 Constitutional Amendment, 425-493-9127,,
P.S. There are thousands of politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and special interest groups working each and every day to raise your taxes. Shouldn't there be at least one person, one team, one organization that fights to lower your taxes? Please help us so we can continue our successful efforts on behalf of taxpayers.

No comments: