A universal health care initiative apparently won't qualify for the Washington ballot this year, but proponents of three other measures were expected to turn in signatures by Friday's deadline.

To qualify for the November ballot, initiative sponsors had to collect 259,622 signatures from registered voters.

Derrick Nunnally, media relations coordinator for the Washington Secretary of State's Office, said representatives for three initiatives - I-1631, I-1634 and I-1639 - indicated they would be turning in signatures before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline.

"They say they have enough signatures to meet the minimum threshold, if not our recommended threshold," Nunnally said.

The office recommends that groups turn in at least 325,000 signatures, 25 percent more than the minimum, because some signatures will be invalidated because of incorrect addresses or other information.

Nunnally said the sponsors of I-1600 had a "placeholder reservation" to turn in petitions to the office Friday, but didn't show up. The measure would have established a universal health insurance plan for all Washington residents, as well as nonresident college students or workers. The coverage would have been paid for with a combination of a new, 1 percent individual income tax, an 8.5 percent capital gains tax, an 8.5 percent employer payroll tax and monthly premiums.

Whether the other initiatives actually qualified for the November ballot won't be known until the Secretary of State's Office does a statistical sampling of the signatures. The possible initiatives include:

  • I-1631 - Clear Air, Clean Energy

The measure tries to reduce carbon pollution by imposing a tax of $15 per metric ton of carbon on large emitters, beginning in 2020. That would increase by $2 per year until certain emission-reduction goals are met.

Seventy percent of the resulting revenue would be used for various clean air or clean energy projects, including renewable energy investments, energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions and public transit.

Another 25 percent would go toward clean water or healthy forest projects, including environmental remediation, reducing flood risk and healthy forest initiatives. The remaining 5 percent would fund various healthy community proposals.

  • I-1634 - No Tax on Groceries

Although it's presented as an effort to keep food costs down, this measure is funded almost exclusively by three major soft drink manufacturers who want to prevent local governments from taxing their products.

The initiative was filed nine months after Seattle approved a new tax on sugary drinks. The tax, equal to 1.75 cents per ounce, or about 28 cents per 16-ounce bottle, is expected to raise millions of dollars each year for various city programs.

I-1634 prohibits other local governments from taxing groceries, which is defined as "raw or processed food or beverages." Alcohol, marijuana products and tobacco products, however, could still be taxed.

Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and Red Bull North America collectively have contributed more than $4.7 million to support the measure.

  • I-1639 - Gun Violence Prevention

This measure would impose new regulations on the purchase and possession of semi-automatic rifles, including age restrictions, background checks and a waiting period. It also would create criminal penalties for the unsafe storage of such weapons.

It prohibits anyone younger than 21 from buying or possessing a semi-automatic rifle. All other buyers would be subject to the same enhanced background checks as pistol buyers, as well as a 10-day waiting period; they also would have to provide proof that they've completed a qualified firearms safety course within the past five years.

If a "prohibited person" gains access to a firearm because the owner failed to store it securely, the owner could be subject to a new community endangerment violation, which would be a gross misdemeanor or class C felony depending on the severity.

The new restrictions would not apply to antique, bolt-action or pump-action rifles.


Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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