Judge Denies Citizens' Initiatives in Spokane

By Paige Browning/Steve Jackson

August 23rd a superior court judge in Spokane booted two citizens’ initiatives from the November ballot. Judge Maryann Moreno ruled the Community Bill of Rights and Voter Bill of Rights as outside the scope of the city’s power.
 
Several business groups and three city council members brought the challenge against the initiatives. Council member Steve Salvatori agreed these topics should not go before city voters.
 
Salvatori: “There’s a couple of these initiatives that don’t belong locally, but they very well could belong at the state level. I’m just saying you know you pick your venue for what you are trying to accomplish.”

The voter bill of rights would have banned private lobbying and corporate contributions in local elections. Proponents have announced they will not file an appeal, and instead will focus on a statewide initiative.
 
Proponents of the Community Bill of Rights measure have announced they aren't giving up. A very similar initiative nearly passed at the polls two years ago. Supporters were hoping for success this time around, but a suit to stop the measure was approved by Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno last Friday.

Before the lawsuit, there were other obstacles enacted in an effort to derail the measure. Proponent Brad Reed says he wonders how those actions will affect those who try to put other initiatives on the Spokane Ballot.

Reed: “Now they have to go through this gauntlet of obstacles where the city attorney has to write the summary of the measure. The hearing examiner has to judge whether it is legal or not, if it survives those hurdles, there is a fiscal impact statement. There is no clarity who does that, or what their accounting will look like.”

Read says the ruling sends the message that the Spokane Business community can sue if they don’t like a specific initiative, and win in a court.
 
Read says that ruling stated that the Bill of Rights exceeded the city’s scope of initiative power, and that State and Federal laws pre-empted the city’s ability to enact laws in certain areas dealing with the river, workers rights, and corporate rights.
 
In addition to filing an appeal , the proponents have filed a motion for a stay on the judge’s ruling.
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