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REJECT SB5395: What Are the Differences Between Initiatives and Referenda?

Updated: Sep 8


Voting on R90 — The Initiative and Referenda Process in Washington State AARON LANG·FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2020·READING TIME: 3 MINUTES

While we are still in the Primary Election season, something pressing on my mind is Referendum 90 and the need to educate others on the Initiative and Referenda process. If you want to know how this relates to R-90, just skip to the bottom. Read on for more detail on the whole process...

We, the people, have reserved the power to self-legislate in Washington State. The State Constitution gets right to it in Article II (Legislative Department). The first two points of Art. II Section 1 is of the people reserving the powers of Initiative (a), and Referendum (b). (a) The first power reserved by the people is the initiative. ... (b) The second power reserved by the people is the referendum, and it may be ordered on any act, bill, law, or any part thereof passed by the legislature, except... What are these two reserved powers?

  • An initiative is an idea for law proposed by the voters. We can send this idea directly to the voters (an Initiative to the People), or we can send it to the Legislature (an Initiative to the Legislature). This power allows us to bypass our representation and self-legislate.


  • A Referendum is a matter proposed or enacted by the legislature which has been referred to the voters. We, the people, can order this by petition on a law recently passed (a Referendum Measure), or the Legislature may order this on proposed laws which they believe should be a direct-vote issue (a Referendum Bill).


Almost every time a Referendum Measure is ordered, it's because of a desire to overturn a law. Once on our ballot, we are empowered to directly vote on the matter. Here's where confusion sets in: many people believe they are then voting to approve or reject the overturn of the law. That is a huge mistake in thinking...

Voting on a Referendum When a Referendum Measure is on our ballot, we are voting directly on the law which was already passed. We are voting to either APPROVE the law or REJECT the law as-written.

How this pertains to Referendum Measure 90: Referendum Measure 90, to repeal the new k-12 sex ed law, is ordered to refer to the voters ESSB 5395, concerning comprehensive sexual health education. We are now voting on this measure, directly, in November.


  • If you want to see this law overturned, you would vote to REJECT the measure.


  • If you want to see this law stay-in-place, you would vote to APPROVE the measure.


Ballot Title The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5395 concerning comprehensive sexual health education. This bill would require school districts to adopt or develop, consistent with state standards, comprehensive age-appropriate sexual health education, as defined, for all students, and excuse students if their parents request. Should this measure be: ___Approved ___Rejected

Ballot Measure Summary The legislature enacted a law requiring all school districts to provide comprehensive sexual health education, as defined, beginning in 2021-22 for grades 6-12 and in 2022-23 for grades K-5. Students must be excused from this program if parents so request. The curriculum must satisfy state standards. The content and frequency of providing comprehensive sexual health education would vary by grade level and must include affirmative consent and bystander training. K-3 instruction must be social-emotional learning. For far more detailed information about this process, check out this great resource on Initiatives & Referenda In Washington State from the WA Secretary of State.

  • (comment) Gwen Hawkins Referendum 90 required 122,000 signatures in order to REPEAL the Comp.Sex Educ.Bill that Inslee signed into law despite the outcry of thousands of citizens against this bill. ( 266,000 ) TWO HUNDRED SIXTY SIX THOUSAND signatures were gathered in a few weeks time to REPEAL this new bad law!!! So...sometimes the wording when we vote in November can be confusing. What this article is saying: If you do not want this new law in place and if you were one that signed the Referendum 90 to repeal the new law...you are going to want to REJECT in order to overturn SB5395. Awesome turn out of signatures!!! Thank you everyone!!


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