Editor's column

"Besides electing a new president and bunch of other stuff this fall, Washington voters will have the pleasure of considering the most initiatives in state history.Six ballot initiatives have qualified for this year’s election, and a seventh may be added soon. Here’s what we’ll vote on for sure:• Initiative 713 would make it a gross misdemeanor to capture an animal with certain body-gripping, steel-jawed leghold traps, or to poison an animal with sodium fluoroacetate or sodium cyanide.• Initiative 722 would nullify certain 1999 tax and fee increases, vehicles would be exempted from property taxes, and property tax increases would be limited to 2 percent annually.• Initiative 728 would redirect unobligated lottery money and part of state property tax into a student achievement fund and an education construction fund. • Initiative 729 would authorize school districts and public universities to sponsor charter public schools. The schools would be independently operated, staffed by certified teachers, and exempt from most state school regulations.• Initiative 732 would provide an annual cost-of-living salary adjustment for public school teachers, other school district employees, and certain employees of community and technical colleges beginning in 2001-2002.• Initiative 745 would direct at least 90 percent of transportation funds to be spent on road construction and maintenance.Washington’s initiative process started in the early 1900s. It has served a purpose over the years, giving residents a direct outlet for putting issues before their fellow voters. The initiative process gave us Daylight Saving Time in 1960. An initiative in 1977 resulted in exempting food from the state sales tax.But initiatives are quickly becoming another political arena where money talks loudest. In many instances, paid gatherers now collect the required 179,248 petition signatures needed per initiative. Special interest groups are not shy about funding this kind of thing, sometimes dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on initiative efforts.However, not all initiatives are backed by big money and slick campaigns. There were 40 potential initiatives registered with the Washington Secretary of State’s office this year. The ones that didn’t make the ballot range from an initiative that would have prohibited smoking in all public places except tobacco shops, to other, more wacky ideas.Take Initiative 740, for example. It would have declared that “half of the planet’s oxygen has been depleted since 1850 and oxygen is the most important product to come from trees. Therefore, this measure would require that all trees growing and producing oxygen on publicly owned lands be forever preserved to supply voters with essential life-sustaining oxygen.”No signatures were turned in on that one.Or how about Initiative 744: “This measure would declare the Revised Code of Washington ... void from inception as applied to flesh and blood people. The measure would declare that the State of Washington is to be strictly limited to powers granted in the original Washington State Constitution.”In other words, lets roll back the clock to 1855.So as you educate yourself about body-gripping animal traps and transportation funding before going to the polling booth, just say a prayer of thanks that some initiatives never make it that far. "

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