Latest Eyman initiative turns some former opponents into supporters

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 6:47 PM

The goal of Initiative 517 is to grease the skids on the signature gathering process. This latest Tim Eyman initiative is different from some of his others, in that some of his long time opponents are lining up to back it.

One of them is Stoney Bird of Bellingham, who supported a 2012 citizens measure against coal trains rolling through the community.

"It was a Bellingham city initiative," said Bird. "We have to gather 5,000 signatures. We actually gathered 10,000 signatures, and then city sued to keep the thing off the ballot. And that's wrong."

That's why this admittedly left-leaning retired attorney is campaigning for I-517.

"I never in my life thought i would support a Tim Eyman initiative," laughs Bird. He's doing it because it will makes the initiative process easier.

"The idea behind the initiative to make it safer for people to participate in the process, to give enough time for people to participate in the process, and if they succeed in qualifying for the ballot that people have a chance to vote on the initiative," said Tim Eyman in January, when he turned the signatures in to the Secretary of State's office.

Kevin Weatherill, CEO of The Market in Bellingham worries I-517 gives signature gatherers too much protection.

"They can come and stand right at our door, and we have to maintain a distance of 25 feet or we are considered an intimidating presence," said Weatherill.

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna said signature gatherers are already afforded protection from harassment under state law, just like any private citizen. The former republican candidate for governor says he has voted for some of Eyman's initiatives in the past, but I-517 goes too far.

"This is going to allow signature gatherers to get inside sports arenas, to get inside libraries and other public spaces where they don't really need to be to gather signatures," said McKenna.

I-517 would also extend the length of time petition sponsors have to gather their required signatures from 10 months to 16 months.

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