- Associated Press - Saturday, February 14, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - State lawmakers are considering sending the class-size initiative approved by voters last November back to the people.

The Olympian reports (https://is.gd/jc9GA1 ) that budget writers may send Initiative 1351 back to voters to ask them to approve a way to pay for the measure. Some would like to see the initiative repealed.

Initiative 1351 calls for reducing class sizes in kindergarten through 12th grade. It is projected to cost the state $2 billion over the next two years.

That adds to the already difficult budget problem of how to increase the public school budget by at least $1.2 billion to comply with a state Supreme Court order to hike education spending.

Some of the money to be spent as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling will go toward lowering class sizes, but most lawmakers say that won’t satisfy the requirements of the voter initiative. Lawmakers also don’t have the option of partial compliance with the initiative unless they have enough votes to suspend it.



Referring I-1351 back to the voters is one way lawmakers could get around the problem. Putting an amended version back on the ballot would require the approval of 50 percent of the members plus one, instead of the two-thirds majority required to suspend the initiative.

Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said referring a “corrected version” of I-1351 back to voters is one tool he and other lawmakers are considering as they craft a new two-year budget.

“I have yet to find a legislator or the governor who says they can find a way to fund it,” said Hill, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “So we will find a way to correct it.”

House budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said his preference would be for the Legislature to amend or suspend I-1351 without a public vote. But he agreed that it could be difficult to summon the two-thirds majority required in the Legislature to do so.

As a backup plan, Hunter said he also is researching how lawmakers might send I-1351 back to voters.

If the Legislature goes that route, Hunter said he would want to ask voters to approve one of two options: Either repeal I-1351, or enact an amended version of the initiative that includes a way to pay for it.

That way, there wouldn’t be the potential for voters to reject the Legislature’s plan and stick with the original version of the law, triggering a new budget crisis in 2016, Hunter said.

It doesn’t appear as if the Legislature has tried something like this before.

The Secretary of State’s elections division “has no record of this occurring” in state history, agency spokesman David Ammons said. “It’s uncharted territory,” he said.

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Information from: The Olympian, https://www.theolympian.com

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