Washington "Government Takings", Initiative 933 (2006)

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State of Washington Initiative 933 or I-933, was on the November 7, 2006 ballot in the State of Washington as an initiated state statute where it was defeated.

I-933 would have required compensation when government regulation damages the use or value of private property, would forbid regulations that prohibit existing legal uses of private property, and would provide exceptions or payments.

Election results

Initative 933
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No1,199,67958.8%
Yes 839,992 41.2%

Aftermath

Despite the measure's defeat, in 2009 advocates for eminent domain reform announced that they may try to push legislation through in 2010. "I was taught the Constitution limits power, that if a power is not enumerated in the Constitution, the government doesn't have it. [Kelo v. New London, Conn.,] stands that individual right on its head," said Timothy Ford, an assistant state attorney general. Following the 2006 ballot measure's defeat the Washington Farm Bureau announced that they would have supported the measure if it had pertained only to restricting eminent domain. The bureau has since sought to push legislation for eminent domain reform.[1]

Fiscal impact statement

The State of Washington Office of Financial Management prepares a fiscal estimate for every ballot measure that goes on the statewide ballot in Washington. Their fiscal estimate for I-933 said:

"Initiative 933 is estimated to cost state agencies $2 billion to $2.18 billion over the next six years for compensation to property owners and administration of the measure. In the same time period, the Initiative is estimated to cost cities $3.8 billion to $5.3 billion, based upon number of land-use actions since 1996, and is estimated to cost counties $1.49 billion to $1.51 billion. Costs are derived from the requirement that, with specific exceptions, state agencies and local governments must pay compensation when taking actions that prohibit or restrict the use of real and certain personal property."

Supporters

The statement in favor of I-933 provided for the official voter guide was written by Steve Appel, a wheat farmer from Endicott and president of the Washington Farm Bureau; Scottie Marable, a small business owner from Bellevue and state chair of the National Federation of Independent Businesses; Heather Hansen, Executive Director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests; Clyde Ballard of Wenatchee, the former Republican Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives; Dan Wood of Montesano, a former County Commissioner and Democratic Party Chair; and David Taylor from Yakima, a land use consultant and former County Planning Director.

Arguments

Arguments made in favor of I-933 that were published in the official voter guide included:

  • It restores the balance between government’s power to regulate and the people’s constitutional right to own and use private property.
  • "In the past 10 years, excessive government regulations have violated our rights and made it difficult for farmers and other property owners to use their property in reasonable ways. For most of us, our homes are our greatest investment. Government should not be able to change the rules and strip us of the use or value of our private property. I-933 protects our jobs, our economy and our retirement plans that depend on reasonable use of private property."
  • It requires the government to consider costs and respect the rights of property owners: "Too often, government adopts regulations without fully understanding the impact on the people it represents. I-933 will require government to identify the likely impact on property owners and pursue voluntary, cooperative efforts to achieve environmental goals before adopting new regulations."
  • It returns responsibility for land-use planning to local governments and citizens: "Instead of accepting top-down mandates from unelected state officials, local government will be required to assess the impact of its actions on local property owners, thus giving citizens more say in local land-use decisions, and holding local officials accountable for their actions. Agencies can choose whether to compensate property owners or avoid damaging the use and value of private property. But the main point of I-933 is to have government avoid damaging property in the first place."
  • It requires the government to follow the constitution: "Washington’s state constitution says, 'No private property shall be taken or damaged…without just compensation.' I-933 will force government to respect our rights and follow the constitution."
  • In response to the arguments put forward by I-933 opponents, its supporters wrote, "I-933’s opponents will say anything to maintain big government control of private property. Their claims simply aren’t true. If local regulations prohibited development or activities 10 years ago, it will still be prohibited after I-933 passes. However, if you prove government action damaged use or value of your property, government would compensate you or avoid causing damage. I-933 forces government to consider costs and follow our state constitution by paying if regulations damage your property.[2]

Opposition

The statements against I-933 included in the office voter guide were signed by John Rose (Board Chair, The Nature Conservancy of Washington), Kelly Fox (President, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters), Barbara Seitle (President, League of Women Voters of Washington), Lindell Haggin (Director, Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County), Alan Mesman (President, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland) and Erik Nicholson (Pacific Northwest Regional Director, United Farm Workers).

Arguments made against I-933 that were published in the official voter guide included:

  • It is "deceptive and misleading. It provides no protection from eminent domain abuses. Instead, the special interests behind I-933 crafted loopholes that force Washington taxpayers to pay billions to a small group of property owners, or force communities to waive safeguards against irresponsible development."
  • "If laws prevent a property owner from expanding a strip mall in a neighborhood or building a subdivision on farmland, I-933 would force the community into a no-win choice—either waive the law or have taxpayers pay the property owner for not being able to build."
  • "I-933 is so poorly written it will generate endless lawsuits. Special interests will hire the best lawyers and win out over communities. The lawyers’ fees and administration alone will cost taxpayers millions."
  • "In Oregon, a similar law generated almost $4 billion in claims against taxpayers. I-933 could cost each Washington taxpayer thousands yearly in additional taxes or lost services."
  • "I-933 applies retroactively to laws going back at least 10 years! This would force communities to waive hundreds of existing safeguards we have depended on to protect neighborhoods and farmland, prevent water pollution, traffic and over-development."[3]

Campaign finance

Donors to the campaign for the measure:[4]

  • Property Fairness Coalition: $1,262,698
  • Total: $1,262,698

Donors for the against the measure:

  • Citizens for Community Protection: $3,861,590
  • Whatcom Communities Opposing I-933: $5,067
  • Total: $3,866,657
  • Overall Total: $5,129,355

See also

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