U.S.

Washington state passes parental bill of rights and other initiatives

Washington, a blue state which much of the country may consider a bastion of progressivism, just passed three conservative-backed initiatives.

Washington state passes parental bill of rights and other initiatives
Students in a classroom
Scripps News
SMS

A shift to the right has come from the Washington State Capitol with the passage of three conservative-backed initiatives.

The three initiatives include guaranteeing Washington's bar on income tax, loosening rules on when police can pursue vehicles, and a declaration of rights for parents of children in public schools. Those rights include opting out of sex education and assignments about religious or political beliefs.

The three are part of a group of six total initiatives introduced by Washington GOP Chairman and state Rep. Jim Walsh, funded by a local businessman. Around 2.7 million signatures were collected in support.

"They are not subject to a governor veto, and that's a critical piece in all of this," said Walsh. Walsh wrote six initiatives which he says represent both conservative fiscal and social values.

The no-income-tax guarantee upholds what has been law in Washington for nearly a century; the police pursuit law rolls back progressive-backed restrictions passed in 2021; and the parent's bill of rights — the one that's gotten the most attention of the three passed — also states parents are entitled to know what kind of mental health treatment their child is getting at school.

Walsh says the pendulum is swinging back from left to center in the Washington State House.

"That's certainly what it feels like, and that's what it feels like inside the Capitol, and that's what it feels like when you're talking to people out in the real world," he said. 

Progressives in the state do not however, view the initiatives as a conservative win. 

"The three that the legislature adopted are basically the hot air balloons that were essentially just designed to inflame culture wars. They did not have a lot of substance," said Aaron Ostrom, executive director of Fuse Washington, a progressive advocacy group. 

He believes three Walsh initiatives that will go before voters in November pose a greater threat. Those include repealing capital gains tax, weakening greenhouse gas reduction efforts and making it easier for workers to avoid a state insurance program. 

"We have to make sure that voters understand that this is a really dangerous slate of initiatives and that's where we will be putting our attention," he said. 

For Walsh and the GOP, they see the bipartisan acceptance of these initiatives as a reflection of their constituents wanting to move back towards the political middle.

"They do think that the current governor and the current state attorney general and the other kind of influencers and in state politics, they've gone too far left, they've gone too big-government ,and that they need to reel it back and get back toward the middle. I think that's what we're seeing happening," said Walsh. 

The three initiatives will go into effect around June 1. 

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