March 05, 2009
Provocation of the Day

Josh Feit covers the interesting story of a moderate Democrat pushing to amend I-937, on the topic of renewable energy:

State Sen. Chris Marr (D-6, Spokane), the Democratic majority whip in Olympia, is sponsoring a bill that will gut the voter-approved renewable energy initiative, I-937. The bill has been fast tracked by leadership and is queued up for a floor vote by the end of this week. The bill has six Democratic sponsors and six Republican sponsors.

I-937, passed by the voters in 2006 52-48, mandates that electric utilities get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Hydro was not included on I-937's list of kosher sources because the intent of the initiative was to develop new sources of green power...

Thought: just because a measure was passed by the people, does that make it good public policy? Is turning to a plebiscite really the best way to fashion complex, inter-related public policy on topics like energy?

Moreover, isn't this why we have a representative democracy in the first place, delegating individuals to handle these questions without turning to the people for an Athenian-style yea or nay?

Yes, the will of the people should be given deference and over-turning it should only be done with careful consideration. Yet, since when did policy language become holy writ just because some interest group had the gumption to put a complex issue before the people in over-simplified terms rather than find legislative success in Olympia?

Exit thought: imagine what SEIU would look like in Washington state if it didn't have access to the initiative process.

Posted by Eric Earling at March 05, 2009 09:26 AM | Email This
Comments
1. Hooray....for Chris Marr! I-937 should be Totally Rescinded, PERIOD! To begin with, if Hydro is not a renewable then, I don't know what is. Other than Hydro and Thermo, I don't know of any other source of renewable energy that is capable of providing a Consistent, Steady source of Energy to meet the growing needs of the People. Frankly, Nuclear Energy should be seriously expanded as our major source of Energy. Cheap, abundant, dependable Energy is what America needs and nothing Less.

Posted by: Daniel on March 5, 2009 10:09 AM
2. I am normally opposed to overturning or gutting citizen initiatives, but since judges and the legislature have gutted and/or ignored the ones I actually care about, I don't feel bad about this one.

Posted by: Palouse on March 5, 2009 10:16 AM
3. At last: A bit of sanity on energy policy in Oly.
Just 1 key snippet from this bill (SB5840):

''It shall be the policy of the state to recognize and promote the use of low-cost renewable hydroelectric generation to firm, shape, and integrate other renewable energy resources into the northwestern electric grid for delivery to Washington residents.''

Posted by: Methow Ken on March 5, 2009 10:58 AM
4. I think it's schizophrenic to have a legislature AND initiate process. Pick one or the other.

Posted by: Crusader on March 5, 2009 12:06 PM
5. Don't be so Dumb, Crusader or is that too much to ask of a Liberal? The Right of Initiative is the Right of the People to have their collective say to the governing body that governs them. It carries far more weight than the more limited say from individuals and organizations that in no way represent the numbers that are represented by an Initiative. An Initiative passed by the People always has superior impact on the Legislature to rethink, change or confirm their original decision. It is Vital for the People to have a vehicle of such proportion to trumpet their concerns and complaints.

Posted by: Daniel on March 5, 2009 12:40 PM
6. @5 Daniel - the initiative process in WA state is simply a tool for the Republican minority to subvert the Democratic legislature. Everyone knows that.

Posted by: Crusader on March 5, 2009 01:33 PM
7. Crusader,

To quote Dean Wormer:

Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Now go and educate yourself. The right to initiative is IN THE STATE CONSTITUTION from the very beginning of this State.

You really aren't the sharpest crayon in the box, are you?

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on March 5, 2009 01:47 PM
8. @7 Dan - My point isn't that it's not legitimate. However it is stupid. Why don't the people just elect Republicans to Olympia instead? Can't answer that one?

Posted by: Crusader on March 5, 2009 01:56 PM
9. crusader, just in case you're not being provacative, and are just ignorant:

ARTICLE I
DECLARATION OF RIGHTS


SECTION 1 POLITICAL POWER. All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

ARTICLE II
LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT


SECTION 1 LEGISLATIVE POWERS, WHERE VESTED. The legislative authority of the state of Washington shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and house of representatives, which shall be called the legislature of the state of Washington, but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature.
(a) Initiative: The first power reserved by the people is the initiative.
(b) Referendum. The second power reserved by the people is the referendum, and it may be ordered on any act, bill, law, or any part thereof passed by the legislature, except such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions,
(This is why the legislature is so fond of adding emergency clauses to bills)

This was written as a check between the People and the Legislature, not Republicans or Democrats. When the legislature acts in a way contrary to the wishes of the People, the People have a Constitutional right to directly address the issue. If the Legislature fails to act, the People also have the Constitutional right to take action.

Even with voting majorities going the way of the Democrats the last few decades, initiatives have continued to be proposed and passed by the People - not withstanding the Supreme Court's actions.

Of course, depending on who supports or opposes the initiatives, the People will sometimes make ill-informed choices, but the legislature isn't that much more intelligent in laws they pass either.

I voted against I-937 because it stupidly excluded hydro as counting as a renewable source. I'm glad the legislature is revisiting this and hopefully they will correct the deficiency of I-937.

Posted by: SouthernRoots on March 5, 2009 01:57 PM
10. @9 SouthernRoots - like I said I can't respect "the people" that on one hand elect radical left wing Democrats to Olympia, and then get so up in arms about SOME of those radical policies that they go through the initiative process instead of just throwing DA BUMS out! Elect conservative Republicans!

Posted by: Crusader on March 5, 2009 02:04 PM
11. Crusader @6....How Dumb can you be? The people who voted for I-937 certainly were less than aware of the issue than a Conservative would be. The vast majority who voted for I-937 were Democrats not, Republicans. An Initiative takes a Majority to pass not, a Minority to pass. Get It? Probably not...Your a Liberal.

Posted by: Daniel on March 5, 2009 02:21 PM
12. @11 Daniel - it's just that the libs have gotten smart and are using the initiative process too. Now that they're onto us, we're screwed.

Posted by: Crusader on March 5, 2009 03:10 PM
13. @12 Liberals and special interest groups have been using the initiative process for many years. The WEA teacher pay initiative was 10 years ago. I'm sure there were others prior to that as well.

Posted by: Palouse on March 5, 2009 03:54 PM
14. If I-937 defined renewable energy to include hydro, the law would be frivolous. We already generate 70% of our electricity from dams. Am I missing something?

I-937 unnecessarily increases the cost of electricity. Solar and wind are not cost effective in addition to being intermittent and variable.

The only practical way to decarbonize is nuclear. If we committed to replace all fossil fueled generation nuclear now, it will take about 15 years before the first kilowatt is produced. That is, assuming that anti-nuke crowd behaves.

Posted by: Paddy on March 5, 2009 04:13 PM
15. WRT what Paddy said @ #14 about new nuclear power plants; i.e.:
''..., it will take about 15 years before the first kilowatt is produced.''

Actually it COULD be a lot less than 15 years; maybe as little as only FIVE years or so; IF is political and technical sanity in D.C. (I know: That's asking a lot). Anyway:
There are several active proposals in to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission right now, to start building multiple Generation-III+ nuclear power plants. With recent improvements in the NRC licensing process, 5 years until ''lights on'' is not out of the question.

Posted by: Methow Ken on March 5, 2009 04:49 PM
16. Shanghai Dan:

Initiative and referendum were added by constitutional amendment 7 ratified by a vote of the people in 1912. They were not in the original 1889 Washington State Constitution.

Posted by: Alex Hays on March 5, 2009 04:59 PM
17. Don't like it, Rabbit? Then go get it changed. Meanwhile your like or dislike is irrelevant.

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