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Washington state Senate passes bill to repeal advisory votes

The legislation moves onto the House. If approved, it would also require legislative staff to work with state officials to create a primer on state finances.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill that would repeal advisory votes in Washington state was approved by the Senate on Wednesday. 

If approved, Senate Bill 5082 would eliminate the requirement of placing the non-binding votes on ballots if there is legislative action raising taxes in certain situations. The bill goes to the House for consideration next.

Advisory votes began in 2008 with the enactment of Initiative 960, backed by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman. The intention was to give voters a voice when it comes to government spending.

Instead of advisory votes, the Senate-approved bill would require the creation of a public website with summaries of government spending and require statements be published online with information about legislation that impacts state revenue. It also asks that a QR code and website address be placed on voters' pamphlets so voters can easily access the information.

The legislation was proposed proposed by Redmond-based nonprofit Northwest Progressive Institute.

The bill's primary sponsor is Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue. 

“In a state that leads the nation in voting accessibility and election integrity, it baffles me that we still waste millions of dollars on a corrupt act of voter suppression like advisory votes,” Kuderer said in a statement.

A statement from Northwest Progressive Institute released after the Senate's passage of the bill calls advisory votes "anti-tax messages dressed up to look like ballot measures." The bill would "eliminate a barrier to voting in Washington by liberating our ballots from being polluted by Eyman's propaganda ... saving taxpayers millions of dollars every year in ballot design, printing, and tabulation costs."

A statement from Senate Republicans reads:

"In Washington, voters get an opportunity to weigh in on taxes that were passed by the Legislature without their direct approval. This opportunity is called "Advisory Votes" and it is often the only time voters hear of a new tax."

Within the bill's report under cons to eliminate advisory votes, it is noted that they give a voice to the public, with 75% of such votes on tax increases being rejected, "that is important for showing the will of the people." The bill, the report states, should point out advisory votes were enacted by a vote of the people.

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