What if we had a democracy where the will of the majority couldn’t carry the day? What if a small minority of legislators had the power to block any law they didn’t like? It sounds crazy — and yet it’s the very principle underpinning Tim Eyman’s latest initiative, I-1053, up for a vote in Washington’s upcoming election.
Consider, just for a moment, the state’s efforts to rein in runaway lending practices. On the heels of the subprime lending meltdown, it became clear that the mortgage industry had grown reckless and out of control. Most heartbreaking were the stories of mortgage brokers who preyed on unsophisticated customers: pushing home-buyers towards loans that paid the brokers handsomely, but that saddled homeowners with undisclosed fees and huge risks of cost escalation.
So in 2008 Washington state started cracking down on predatory lending practices. The lynchpin was Senate Bill 6381…the full Senate approved the bill by a 29 to 19 vote, and the house passed it unanimously — clear evidence that the state’s legislators thought that abusive lending practices had gone too far, and that Washington’s homeowners deserved fair and responsible treatment from the mortgage industry.
Mortgage reform is just one example of widely-supported legislation that wouldn’t have passed under the distorted version of democracy represented by I-1053.