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Gun-control advocates file initiative to Legislature ?>

Gun-control advocates file initiative to Legislature


Paul Benz and Cheryl Stumbo talk to the media after filing their initiative to the Legislature.

Continuing the debate that began in the Legislature after the Newtown shootings, gun-control advocates have filed an initiative to the Legislature to require universal background checks on gun purchases.

The measure was filed with the Secretary of State on Tuesday by Faith Action Network, including Cheryl Stumbo, who was gravely wounded by a gunman at the Seattle Jewish Center, and Paul Benz, a longtime church leader and social justice advocate at the Capitol.

Backers will have the rest of the year to gather about 325,000 signatures of registered Washington voters.  If validated, the measure would go first to the 2014 Legislature, which could approve it as submitted, ignore or reject it and allow it to go to the fall 2014 ballot, or write a legislative alternative that would accompany the initiative to the ballot.

The measure largely reflects legislation proposed by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and others during the session.  Gov. Jay Inslee has strongly supported the legislation, but it failed to clear even the Democratic-controlled House.

Campaign strategist Christian Sinderman said the issue has become a frontburner issue in the state and nationally, with polls showing heavy public support, in the 80 percent range. The campaign is coordinating with a variety of gun-safety groups and expects both sides in the debate to draw national support and contributions.

“This issue is gaining traction,” Stumbo told reporters gathered at the Capitol.  The Legislature may actually approve the measure as public pressure mounts, she said. If not, the voters will do the job, she said.

The proposal has been resisted by the National Rifle Association and other 2nd Amendment groups.


Lawmakers OK General Election for judges, SPI Top 2 ?>

Lawmakers OK General Election for judges, SPI Top 2


The Legislature has sent Gov. Jay Inslee a Top 2 elections bill that requires the two primary favorites for each race for Supreme Court, Appeals Court, Superior Court and  state school superintendent to advance to the General Election ballot.

Currently it is possible for judges and SPI to prevail in the primary by getting more than 50 percent, with the victor going alone to the General Election ballot. This happened last fall in some judicial races and in Randy Dorn’s re-election bid as SPI.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who strongly supported the bill, called it an excellent improvement of the elections process, allowing a final vote between the two primary favorites in the judicial and SPI races in the General Election, when voter turnout and media attention are considerably heavier. She added:

“It makes good sense. This is a smart improvement for the voters of Washington, and I salute our legislators for putting more emphasis on our important judicial races and our state school superintendent.”

House Bill 1474, prime sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, originally passed the House 97-0 on March 7 and cleared the Senate last week 37-9. On Monday, House concurred in a Senate amendment and passed the bill 95-0. Gov. Inslee is expected to sign the bill.

Gregoire OKs gay marriage; ballot challenge launched ?>

Gregoire OKs gay marriage; ballot challenge launched

Joseph Backholm pays the $5 filing fee as he files R-73 Monday afternoon.

Feb. 14 UPDATE: The referendum number has been changed to R-74.

Challengers of Washington’s newly signed gay-marriage bill have filed a referendum challenge.  Less than four hours after Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law the bill authorizing civil marriage for same-sex couples, SB6239, Joseph Backholm of Preserve Marriage Washington filed Referendum 74 seeking to overturn the law.

Backholm, who has the backing of a number of in-state and national organizations, said it will be an expensive and hard-fought campaign, but that he expects to prevail.

“I don’t think it’s that hard of a case to make,” he told reporters at the Office of Secretary of State.  “There are lots of meaningful relationships that are not called marriage.  Marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman and the children they raise.”

Christopher Plante of the National Organization for Marriage, said each side will spend $2 million-$6 million getting their message out.  Backholm said “I’m very confident.”

The referendum simply takes the exact language of the bill that the Legislature passed and Gregoire signed, and places it on the ballot.  The voter’s  choice will be to affirm the law or to reject it – so essentially the sponsors who are bringing the referendum forward will be asking for a “reject” vote on their own measure.  Supporters of gay marriage will be asking for a vote to affirm the law.

Several hundred cheering partisans, and one heckler, crowded into the ornate State Reception Room for the governor’s bill-signing ceremony.

Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, both Seattle Democrats from the 43rd District, the prime sponsors, spoke before Gregoire took the podium to loud cheers and the chant “Gregoire! Gregoire! Gregoire.”  She was flanked by many of the legislators who voted for the measure during the past two weeks. Crowds lined the balconies and steps of the Rotunda, watching on closed-circuit TV. (more…)