Finally, a hero: new house member Morgan Irwin goes all-out to stop anti-initiative bill !!!

by | Feb 26, 2018

“This bill is much less about signature gatherers and much more about strangling the initiative process.” Morgan Irwin

For weeks, hundreds and hundreds of regular citizens have been emailing and calling legislators asking them, begging them, to protect the initiative process from politicians and special interest groups whose sole focus this session is to legislatively strangle the initiative process.

On Friday, one legislator listened to you: his name is Morgan Irwin and he’s a new house member, a Republican from the 31st district (south King County).

In committee, he really went after SB5397, that horrible anti-initiative bill that forces people, before being allowed to collect signatures for initiatives, to be registered, licensed, trained, criminal background checks, photo headshots, drivers licenses, names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses.

With no serious examination, the Senate passed this anti-initiative bill and now it’s before the House.

On Friday, as the bill was scheduled for a final committee vote, Morgan Irwin filed and pushed 17 amendments in an effort to correct some of the bill’s many flaws. Each amendment put a spotlight on it, forcing a needed discussion and exploration of the burdens imposed by the bill. And he forced a vote by members of the committee on each amendment. The discussion, debate, and votes on his 17 amendments took 42 minutes.

He was well informed, well spoken, focused, and relentless.

Here was his closing remarks:

“The 17 or so amendments, I think I originally drafted 21 amendments, are all seeking to focus the bill. I think we have a duty to listen to the people of Washington state as often as we can and try and fulfill their will. If we don’t do that as legislators, then they have the opportunity through the initiative process to do it themselves. This bill, whether intended or not, will limit the initiative process. This bill will do that. It will make it harder, it will make it more expensive. That’s been the result in other states that have adopted similar legislation. In Oregon, it’s gone up something like 300 or 400%. So not only are we limiting the initiative process, but we are making it only available to those who are the most well-funded, which is the worst kind of limiting because our poor and unrepresented feel the initiative process is their last thing to lean on. And they won’t be able to because they simply won’t be able to afford the signature gathering process. I urge a no vote on the bill, I don’t think it’s ready, I think there’s a lot of problems with it and its effects will be very detrimental to the state of Washington.”

That’s exactly right.

To build up to that crescendo, he introduced his 17 amendments one at a time, highlighted a flaw in the bill, and explained how his amendment fixed it.

Of all the detestable policies in SB 5397, the most offensive to the First Amendment is imposing criminal background checks on people who want to collect signatures. Morgan Irwin’s comments on that pernicious policy were powerful:

“This amendment seeks to look at a part of the bill that seems overly onerous where we’re requiring mandatory federal criminal background checks. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but there is no background check requirement to become a lobbyist in the state of Washington. None. Actually, there’s no background check to become a legislator or to become a local official or to do many other jobs involved with the political process. This seems like an enormous overreach for somebody who’s collecting initiative signatures in front of a store. Mandatory criminal background checks when all you’re doing is collecting signatures, something that’s been done for time immemorial? And again, we have no significant threat that’s been recognized or realized that these people pose to society. Yet we’re requiring fairly expensive and difficult to acquire federal background checks for people who are gathering signatures. This is an overreach within the bill, it goes well outside its stated intent. When you start to add all these things up, it starts to feel like this bill is much less about signature gatherers and much more about strangling the initiative process. So I urge adoption of the amendment.”


When all was said and done, none of his amendments were accepted. The bill was passed out of committee which means that this deeply flawed bill goes to the Rules committee where Speaker Frank Chopp will decide whether or not to advance it to the floor. He should not. As Rep. Irwin’s 42 minute examination of the bill illustrated, SB 5397 is deeply flawed.

“This bill is much less about signature gatherers and much more about strangling the initiative process.”

It’s important for all of us to thank Morgan Irwin for his Herculean efforts on Friday and urge him to continue the fight. Send him an email that says this, or something like this:

“Rep. Irwin, thank you for your blizzard of amendments to anti-initiative bill SB 5397. You forced a needed examination of this deeply flawed legislation. If this bill dies, it’s because of your actions in committee on Friday. I encourage you and other members of the House to stop this horrible bill from advancing. And to Speaker Frank Chopp, I ask you to leave SB 5397 on the cutting room floor. Don’t let it emerge from the Rules Committee. Stand with the ACLU who rightly found this bill offensive to the First Amendment and free speech. Speaker Chopp, I ask you to protect the initiative process by blocking SB 5397 from further consideration.”

Subject line: House members, I ask you to follow Rep. Morgan Irwin’s lead and oppose SB 5397 — as he said, it’s “much more about strangling the initiative process.”

In the To line of your email, put this:;

In the bcc line of your email, cut and paste the email addresses of the other house members:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

The most important thing you can do to stop SB 5397 is by sending the email above. Each of us must do our part to protect the initiative process from this horrendous legislative assault.

Over the past two decades, our junk-yard-dog-activism has proven that this is true: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
After 20 years of fighting for taxpayers, we’ve learned that the most effective way to fight the Democrats’ tax-hiking schemes is by taking our case directly to the people. That’s why we’re moving full steam ahead with We Don’t Want An Income Tax. It prohibits the state and local governments from imposing any kind of income tax, especially a capital gains income tax.

Jack, Mike, and I are committed to protecting taxpayers. But we can’t do it alone. We need everyone’s help.