June 25, 2018
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I-1608 suspends signature gathering work to focus on 2019 ballot effort

Unprecedented competition for paid signature gatherers has narrowed the path to success for qualifying Initiative 1608 and has led its leaders to suspend signature gathering work this year and focus on putting the issue before voters in 2019, the group Yes on 1608 said last week.

As currently written, I-1608 would have changed state law to open up government collective bargaining negotiations to the public. Currently, almost all of these negotiations are conducted behind closed doors, out of sight of the public and press. The initiative would have opened the doors and let voters and reporters observe the process.

“We are thankful for the outpouring of bipartisan support the Yes on 1608 campaign has received in the last few months,” said initiative sponsor Craig Williamson. “We cannot let the momentum we have built fall victim to the spending race for signatures which has developed in June, so we are turning our eyes to 2019.”

Williamson added that the more than 150,000 people who have already signed I-1608 can expect to hear from the group again, once the campaign has determined the best path for putting open government issues before the public in 2019.

“We absolutely remain convinced that voters deserve government transparency, and the right to see how elected officials are making multi-billion-dollar decisions with taxpayer money,” Williamson said. “The depth of support from organizations and individuals across Washington state tells us that we should keep working to shine a light on the work politicians are doing in our name.”

There are currently four other statewide initiatives in the signature-gathering phase, plus the recent Seattle head tax repeal referendum, which put a premium on the cost of securing paid professionals to do the work, the group said. The competition has significantly raised the price of gathering the more than 300,000 signatures necessary by July 6 to validate an initiative, Williamson said.

“Craig Williamson and the campaign did a great job getting their petitions out first, and by building impressive bipartisan endorsement support since March,” said Campaign Chairman John Hennessy. “However, when the cost of gathering signatures goes from a dollar or two up to $5 or more, it is only prudent to look at other options.”

For more on the initiative process, visit the Washington Secretary of State’s website.

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