from Seattle Times on April 28, 2019 

OLYMPIA — In a last-minute move, the Washington Legislature on Sunday night passed Initiative 1000, a measure that overturns the state’s 20-year-old, voter-approved ban on affirmative action.

I-1000 repeals Initiative 200, a measure approved by Washington voters 20 years ago that blocked the government from giving preferential treatment to, or discriminating against, people and groups on the basis of sex, ethnicity, color, race or national origin.

Voting largely along party lines, Democratic majorities in the House and Senate propelled its passage in both chambers. The House approved it 56 to 42; the Senate passed it 26 to 22.  During the debate, Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, urged his colleagues to approve the measure.  “We can’t close our eyes to say there’s no racism, or there’s no institutionalized racism or institutionalized barriers, because there are,” said Hasegawa. “And the statistics show up in the criminal justice system, the education system, from top to bottom.

In floor speeches, Republicans argued against the initiative to the Legislature, which would have gone to the November ballot if lawmakers hadn’t acted.  Senate GOP Deputy Minority Leader Sharon Brown of Kennewick argued against the proposal, saying she taught her mixed-race children to achieve their goals through hard work.  “They don’t want a seat on the corporate board because of their race, because of their gender, they want it because of their experience,” said Brown. “They want it because of their merit.”

Outside the House and Senate chambers, meanwhile, a handful of protesters loudly protested, chanting, “Let people vote!”  Early this year, the I-1000 campaign submitted more than 400,000 signatures, more than any previous initiative to the Legislature.  Under such a proposal, the Legislature could approve the measure with no changes — making it law — or not act, and let the measure go to voters on the fall ballot. The Legislature could also have approved an amended version, which would send both measures to the ballot.

Community advocates kicked off the I-1000 campaign in August at Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle. Former Govs. Dan Evans, Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire, along with Gov. Jay Inslee, all threw their support behind it.  Metropolitan King County Council-member Larry Gossett also urged support for the measure.  “Two decades ago, state voters chose to punish those who were just starting to make gains in a society that—then and now—continues to be under the control of systemic racism,” Gossett wrote in a Facebook post. “I-1000 is a first step in reducing the damage done by I-200 and making an honest effort to ‘remove the hobbles.’”

But after collecting those signatures, the campaign also found itself deep in debt. It owed more than $1.3 million to the companies and people who assembled those petitions.  The measure passed in the final hours on the last day of the Legislature’s regularly-scheduled 2019 session. It came to the House and Senate floors after lawmakers struggled to finish a key bill on time. But legislators found a compromise on the bill to raise caps on how much money school districts could raise through local tax levies, and ended the session on-time.