Washington State Initiative 517, which proposes to protect the rights of those gathering signatures for initiatives by creating a 25-foot “harassment-free zone” around them, has gotten a staunch rebuke from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.

The organization today said that the proposal “intrusively expands the initiative process,” announcing that the Chamber's board of directors has voted to oppose it upon recommendation from the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee. An email from Mimi Jansen, the Chamber's communications coordinator, said that the committee's recommendation stemmed from multiple reasons, including the infringement of private property rights by allowing signature gatherers inside businesses on their terms.

Initiative 517, the Chamber said, would also impede businesses' ability to deal with aggressive signature gatherers, and local governments and businesses would expend significant resources in court addressing illegal and unconstitutional local ballot initiatives that the measure would force a vote on.

“I think the concern is what's the impact of this in terms of a private business?” Tom Pierson, Chamber president and CEO, asked. “If you own a building or you're in a building, what's 'public access' mean? Is it the entranceway? Can they come into your business? I think it just opens up too many questions and intrusions upon individual businesses, whether you're a mom-and-pop retail store or a Costco or a downtown office building or a business in there.”