Two more ballot measures not to be overlooked:HJR 4220: Washington’s constitution states specifically that anyone accused of a crime is entitled to bail, unless charged with aggravated first-degree murder and possibly subject to the death penalty. Judges, when faced with a defendant they believe might be a danger to the public, often set bail so high that it is very unlikely to be met. But, sometimes, it is. The case of Maurice Clemmons is one example. He had a violent history and faced multiple felony counts, but was released after friends put up $8,000 and offered a house as backing for a $190,000 bond. Clemmons was free to gun down four Lakewood Police officers in a coffee shop.
This constitutional amendment that would expand the bail exception to those accused of crimes punishable by life in prison. A judge could set bail or deny it if clear and convincing evidence suggests a defendant might be dangerous. It could apply to about 1,000 cases a year statewide, but is likely to be used infrequently. It is similar to the rule used in federal court.
This is a sensible step to protect both the accused and the public in cases where the potential for violence and crime is clearly evident. It is a reasoned reaction to a horrible tragedy, to increase the possibility it will not be repeated. Rights to due process, habeas corpus, speedy trial, and the presumption of innocence are not infringed. Vote yes.
SJR 8225: This is a constitutional amendment that changes the way the cost of the state’s debt is calculated, and lowers the cost of borrowing. For generations the federal government has subsidized state bonds by exempting interest paid from income tax. Investors accepted lower interest rates as a result. Now the there is a new method called Build America Bonds, where the subsidy is paid directly to the state rather than doled out in tax exemptions. The state can pay interest to investors, but lower its net interest expense with the federal rebate. There is more competition for bonds, and lower debt cost overall.
For most government bonds issued in Washington, for state and local and school projects, the Build America Bonds program cannot be used, since the state’s constitutional debt limit is calculated on full interest paid, not the net interest paid. That’s all this amendment changes. The debt ceiling will be calculated on “net” interest. The federal payment can be deducted to measure the actual debt burden. The state’s debt limit won’t be changed or raised.
State bonds for transportation projects, not subject to the debt limit, already use the program. If SJR 8225 passes, so too can bonds issued for state buildings, schools, colleges, parks, etc. State Treasurer Jim McIntire, a strong backer, estimates a $100 million savings in the next two years.
This is a wise adjustment with broad support, akin to refinancing a mortgage when interest rates drops, without weakening important constitutional protections against overborrowing. Vote yes on SJR 8225.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Editor and Publisher Rufus Woods, Managing Editor Cal FitzSimmons, Chief Financial Officer Janine Bakken and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.