The Daily News editorial board recommends a “No” vote on Initiative 1634, the measure aimed at prohibiting cities from passing taxing on groceries.
The initiative grew from Seattle’s recently imposed soda tax. Following in the footsteps of other cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco, the city of Seattle passed a 1.75 cent-per-ounce soda tax that went into effect last January. Supporters of soda taxes argue the tax is an effort to reduce significant health risks such as obesity, heart disease and tooth decay linked to consumption of sugary drinks.
At first blush, the initiative sounds like a good idea. To many of us, the idea of putting a tax on a food item simply because of its high sugar content is ludicrous. What’s next? Potato chips? French fries? What about ice cream, chocolate, doughnuts or other baked goods? Those can hardly be considered health foods. There are plenty of food items stocking the shelves of grocery stores and gas stations that are unhealthy. We don’t — and shouldn’t — add taxes to them just because people choose to consume more of them than they should.
Thankfully, state law already exempts most food items — aside from soda — from sales taxes. That’s not likely to change. We have no doubt that if city governments moved to place a tax on currently tax-exempt grocery items, they would be met with an angry horde of consumers.
One of greatest concerns with this measure is that it seeks to take control away from local government. This gives us pause for a couple of reasons.
We believe decisions affecting local residents should, whenever possible, stay in the domain of local government. Washington has a long and proud tradition of keeping local issues just that — local.
Our other concerns is that by prohibiting local governments from addressing the issue of whether to pass a soda tax (and really, few cities in Washington are even considering it), it could encourage state lawmakers to jump into the fray.
If a city council passes a law or ordinance that proves deeply unpopular with its residents, it is much easier, and quicker, to repeal. Sometimes it’s only a matter of weeks between when an ordinance is passed and when it’s repealed. The same can’t be said of the state legislative process — which can take years to correct.
While supporters of the initiative say it’s about more than just soda taxes, don’t be misled. Nearly all of the funding for the Yes! To Affordable Groceries committee campaigning for I-1634 has come from large soda manufacturers. More than $13 million has come from Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Red Bull alone.
We would rather see decisions about how to address local issues left to local government, and for that to happen, I-1634 needs a “No” vote.
Vote ‘No’ on I-1639
Gun violence in America. There are few topics that stir as much debate on what, if anything, needs to be done with our current national and state gun laws.
But even those who support what’s often labeled as “common sense” gun control have difficulty supporting Initiative 1639, including The Daily News editorial board.
There are some elements of I-1639 that have potential. A 10-business day waiting period for the delivery of a “semiautomatic assault rifle,” additional background checks and training requirements are reasonable gun laws.
However, there are several elements in I-1639 we found problematic: How “semiautomatic assault rifles” are defined, the age requirements and the firearm storage requirements were chief among those concerns.
I-1639 defines a semiautomatic assault rifle as “any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.” Additionally, it does not include any firearm “that has been made permanently inoperable, or any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action.”
Under this definition, some weapons used for hunting or recreational shooting would be labeled as assault weapons even if they really aren’t.
Another drawback to the initiative is its gun storage requirements. According to Ballotpedia, under I-1639, “a person who left a firearm in a place where a prohibited person (someone who is prohibited from firearm possession under state or federal law) could potentially gain access to the firearm would be guilty of community endangerment, a class C felony, if a prohibited person gained access to the firearm.”
We disagree with criminalizing the behavior of legal gun owners based on the actions of others. What if someone breaks into your home, steals your gun and commits a crime? Are you a victim of theft, or would you be charged and treated as an accomplice in the later act? We’re not clear on the intent of this requirement, but it suggests some disturbing possibilities.
This requirement seems like it would not only be difficult to enforce, but could also restrict legal gun owners from protecting their homes, property and themselves.
Last but not least, the initiative would restrict anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle. However, those between the ages of 18-21 may be able to possess a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle under a set of specific circumstances.
With more than 30,000 gun-related fatalities each year, it is clear that America has a gun problem. There are as many privately owned guns in America as there are people, and our country has a higher rate of gun violence than any other developed nation.
But poorly defined laws, criminalizing the behavior of law-abiding citizens and arbitrary age restrictions are not going to fix the problem.