Washington's citizens this year will decide on a number of hot-button issues. Aside from the key races that could help determine party control in Congress, and whether Democrats will continue their majority streak in the Legislature, the state initiatives alone will be enough to turn out voters.
Four measures on November's ballot will address debates that have been happening statewide for decades. Make sure you know what they're all about.
Initiative 940: Prosecuting Police for Deadly Force
In an odd turn of events, a better version of the bill negotiated between police unions and the I-940 campaign didn't make it on the ballot; the state Supreme Court ruled that the way state legislators passed the changes to the bill was unconstitutional.
So what's on the November ballot is the original legislation put out by the I-940 campaign—which includes families of loved ones killed by police—that law enforcement groups opposed. If approved, officers would no longer be able to use lack of "malice" as a defense for deadly force.
It would be a milestone move on police reform. That word makes it essentially impossible to prosecute a cop over use of deadly force, since it's very difficult to prove "malice." State legislators like David Frockt have been trying to remove this wording for years, to no avail. The measure also mandates law enforcement officers to obtain de-escalation and mental health training; if they don't, they would no longer be certified.
The changes that didn't make it in—making the "good faith" standard objective, rather than subjective; removing the condition of staying certified only if they receive the training; and changing language around first-aid care to acknowledge that it's sometimes not best practice or could put officers in danger.
The I-940 campaign, also known as De-Escalate Washington, has raised $3.3 million to support it; opponents, largely law enforcement groups, have raised just about $300,000, according to the PDC.
Initiative 1631: The Carbon "Fee" Initiative
I-1631 is another attempt by environmental activists to try to tackle climate change statewide. It would affect companies reliant on fossil fuels and impose a $15 fine per metric ton of carbon emissions starting in January 2020. That fine would increase by $2 every year after that, meant to incentivize companies to switch to clean energy alternatives.
It doesn't address all carbon emissions—marine and aircraft fuels are exempt, for one. But it would generate $2.3 billion in its first five years of implementation, according to the Office of Financial Management, which would go mostly toward clean energy investments.
Opponents—namely, big oil—have contributed $31.6 million to defeat this initiative, which is the most money spent in an initiative fight in the state's history. Oil companies in turn could raise gas prices, shifting the burden onto drivers.
Initiative 1634: Prohibiting Other Cities from Taxing Soda or Grocery Items
Supporters of this initiative have raised $20.3 million, drastically outspending opponents with soda companies pouring funds into this campaign. (The Healthy Kids Coalition has only raised $33,100.)
The initiative would ban taxes on beverages and grocery items, prohibiting other cities or counties from pursuing taxes similar to that of Seattle's soda tax. It would not repeal Seattle's soda tax.
Council members last year passed a tax on soda and other sweetened beverages that prompted backlash for its business impact and regressive nature. (The tax ultimately excluded diet soda, despite a racial justice analysis that said the tax would disproportionately affect people of color if it didn't include diet drinks.)
Opponents of the initiative say cities should decide for themselves on revenue streams rather than pre-empt a tax that local jurisdictions (as of right now) don't have any plan to implement. Supporters say local taxes on food and beverage products should already be banned.
Initiative 1639: Tougher Gun Regulations
This ballot measure is in response to rising uproar over mass shootings and gun violence, especially in schools after a shooter killed 17 students and staff at a Parkland, Florida high school.
I-1639 would implement sweeping gun regulations—create an enhanced background check system, raise the age of purchase to 21 for semiautomatic assault rifles, and create waiting periods and safe gun storage requirements.
Anyone who violates the safe gun storage law—to be secured with a trigger lock to prevent unauthorized use or firearm discharge—could face misdemeanor or felony charges and be fined up to $250.