Voters decide several propositions Nov. 4

October 14, 2008

By Staff

Besides deciding important races for state and local office, voters also have some big propositions to consider in the Nov. 4 general election.

These include a measure to open high-occupancy-vehicle lanes to all traffic during certain periods (Initiative 985); a measure to allow certain terminally ill, competent adults to obtain lethal prescriptions (Initiative 1000); and King County Charter Amendment No. 8, which would make the offices of county executive, assessor and County Council nonpartisan.

Initiative 985

This initiative would open all carpool lanes during nonpeak hours to all traffic. During peak hours, the use of carpool lanes would be limited to vehicles carrying two or more persons, or motorcycles carrying one or more persons.

Tolls could not be charged to any vehicle in a high-occupancy toll lane during nonpeak hours.

The measure would require state and local governments to synchronize traffic lights within their jurisdictions to optimize traffic flow.

A portion of the revenues collected through the levy of the state sales tax (15 percent of the amount of sales tax revenue collected from the sale of motor vehicles, except for retail car rentals) would be placed in a Reduce Traffic Congestion Account established by the measure. In addition to the sales revenues, the following revenues would be placed in the new account: certain tolls and charges; revenue from certain infractions dedicated to reducing traffic congestion; and one-half of 1 percent (.05 percent) of the money appropriated for any transportation-related public works project.

Proponents of I-985 say that signal synchronization alone could reduce traffic congestion by 6 percent to 7 percent, while opening carpool lanes during nonpeak hours also would reduce congestion.

Opponents argue that I-985 shortchanges taxpayers across the state by concentrating resources in congested areas in and around Seattle. They also say that opening HOV lanes to single-occupant vehicles would create safety hazards and thereby make congestion worse.

Initiative 1000

Sometimes called the “death with dignity” initiative, this measure would permit terminally ill, competent, adult Washington residents, who are medically predicted to have six months or less to live, to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician.

Under existing Washington law, it is a crime for any person, including a physician, to knowingly assist another person in attempting suicide.

That would change under Initiative 1000: The attending physician with primary responsibility for care of the patient would be required to determine that the patient has an incurable, irreversible disease expected to cause death within six months; that the patient is competent; that the patient has demonstrated Washington residency; that the request is voluntary; and that the patient is making an informed decision.

The physician would be required to recommend that the patient notify the patient’s next of kin, but the patient would not be required to do so. If the attending or consulting physician believes the patient’s judgment may be impaired by a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression, the physician would be required to refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist for counseling.

Lethal medication could not be prescribed until the counselor determines that the patient’s judgment is not impaired. Immediately before writing the prescription, the attending physician would be required to verify that the patient is making an informed decision.

The measure would require a patient to make one written and two oral requests to the attending physician for the lethal medication. The patient would have the right to rescind the request at any time, and in any manner, regardless of his or her mental state. The physician would be required to offer the patient an opportunity to rescind the request when the second oral request is made. A 15-day waiting period between the first and second oral requests would be required, and a 48-hour waiting period between the written request and the writing of the prescription would be required.

Proponents of I-1000 say terminally ill adults should be able to choose how their lives will end. They base their support on the success of a similar Oregon law, on the books for 10 years, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and approved twice by voters.

Opponents argue that the measure is flawed and dangerous, especially to those with limited access to health care or inadequate health insurance. They say also that the measure’s safeguards are inadequate to protect depressed or mentally ill people, and that insurers and bureaucrats could be in the position of steering patients toward assisted suicide rather than end-of-life care.

King County Charter Amendment No. 8

This amendment to the county charter would eliminate partisan elections for executive, assessor and County Council members, establishing a nonpartisan system in its place. This would take effect at the next scheduled election for each office.

According to proponents, nonpartisan government would improve voters’ choices, increase competition in elections, reduce partisan bickering and restore local priorities and service.

Opponents of the amendment say citizens have a right to know who the candidates are and what they stand for, and that political party preference is the single piece of objective information about a candidate that appears on the ballot.

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