Many of the issues dominating the 2012 local elections will directly affect UWT students and their families. Marriage equality, tax increases, and public transportation changes are a few of the initiatives students should look into if they plan to vote locally this year.
Referendum 74: This proposes allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in Washington state. Currently, the state has a domestic partnership registry which couples can apply for if they meet certain requirements or if one of them is over 62 years old. If approved, domestic partnerships entered validly into other states or jurisdictions would be recognized here. As of June 30, 2014, state-registered partnerships will be converted to marriages if the union hasn’t been dissolved and neither party is over 62 years old. Clergy and religious institutions would not be required to perform or accommodate same-sex marriages and won’t be held accountable for any claims of discrimination. Opponents of Ref. 74 claim its approval would redefine and destroy the definition of marriage, although the referendum’s text states all of Washington state’s other laws regarding marriage would be unaffected and remain intact.
Proposition 1: With more than a dozen routes serving campus, Pierce County Transit is vital to many at UWT. Prop. 1 would add a 0.3 percent increase to local sales and use tax to “provide exclusive, direct support for local Pierce County-oriented bus services.” According to the ballot’s explanatory statement, local taxes fund 70 percent of PCT’s service budget and in recent years of economic crisis, public transportation has struggled to stay operational in spite of 30 percent employee cuts and 40 percent route reductions. If approved, the increased influx of money will go to maintain “local and express bus routes, services for seniors and people with disabilities, commuter vanpools, partnerships with schools to move students, and businesses to transport employees and customers.” Tax increases are rarely approved. However, if rejected, PCT claims cuts of more than 35 percent will be necessary, along with the “elimination of all Saturday and Sunday service, limited mid-day and evening service, elimination of routes, longer wait times for commuters, and elimination of significant para-transit service for people with disabilities.”
Initiative Measure No. 1240: Students with children will be interested in the proposal to “allow up to 40 publicly funded charter schools to open over a five-year period.” A charter school is a nonprofit public school that is strictly evaluated for accountability and held responsible for success rates. According to the “Washington Policy Center” website, “Under I-1240, charter schools would be required to show that they are successfully educating students.” Being independently managed, charter schools have the budget flexibility to provide specialized learning programs and options for at-risk or disabled youth normal public schools cannot provide. Instructors would be able to join the local teacher’s union but wouldn’t be required to do so.
Senate Joint Resolution No. 8223: College students constantly have to worry about higher education budget cuts and their impact on campus. Simply put, under this resolution, the state’s constitution “would no longer prohibit investment of public monies of the University of Washington and Washington State University in private stocks and bonds.” Although arguments are made that this allowed investment is gambling with public funds, the intention is to carefully invest to increase higher education funding. The Washington State Investment Board would oversee the private ventures as an independent.
Political enthusiast or not, the fact is that election outcomes affect students’ daily lives. If you are voting this November, carefully explore the pros and cons of measures up for approval or rejection.