Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks on Friday lifted his previous ban on releasing initiative and referendum petitions under the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act. The Secretary of State’s public records officer, Brenda Galarza, on Tuesday began making arrangements with individuals who had requested the petitions submitted for 11 initiatives in earlier elections.
Political consultant/lobbyist Bryan Wahl has already ordered, and paid $1,554, to cover the costs of microfilm and digital petitions for Initiatives 722 (property tax limits), 745 (transportation), 747 (property tax limits), 776 (car tabs), 900 (state and local performance audits), 912 (gas tax rollback), 917 (car tabs), 920 (estate tax repeal), 960 (tax limits), 985 (transportation) and 1033 (revenue limits). Open-government advocate Toby Nixon asked for the same initiatives, but may examine them at the State Archives instead. The Archives will be making up a set for free public inspection, probably in three or four weeks. Arthur West, a citizen activist from Olympia, also has requested access to the petitions.
The initiatives in question are all from the past decade, and most are from Eyman’s initiative shop. Only one current measure, income tax Initiative 1098, is the subject of a pending request, but disclosure will be delayed while a fraud investigation is in its final phase.
There are six pending requests for petitions for last year’s Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law that voters upheld. They cannot be released at this time, however, because gay marriage foes, Protect Marriage Washington, got a restraining order from a federal judge while their court challenge is underway.
Tim Eyman’s lawsuit, challenging disclosure based on state constitutional grounds, is expected to go to trial next year.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called Doe v. Reed, recently held that Washington’s policy of releasing petiti0ns does not, as a general matter, violate the federal Constitution. The justices, however, said that Protect Marriage Washington may file a followup challenge in federal court, specific to R-71, and that case is now pending in Judge Benjamin Settle’s courtroom.