March 2012 Bar Bulletin
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March 2012 Bar Bulletin

WSBA Referendum Proposes Big Changes; Members Called on to Vote


A member referendum has been filed with WSBA's executive director calling for a vote of the WSBA membership. It requests that the Board of Governors' decision to keep 2013 license fees the same for the fourth consecutive year be repealed, and that 2013 license fees be dropped from $450 to $325.

On March 7, electronic ballots will go out to the active membership, with paper copies sent to those without valid email addresses on file. Members will have until April 6 to vote. Passing or defeating this referendum requires a majority vote of those active members voting.

Below are some facts about WSBA's member referendum process, your WSBA license fee and the potential impact of the proposed referendum.

  • WSBA's member referendum process is the avenue by which any active member of the Bar can affect policy set by the Board of Governors. A referendum can reverse or modify a final action taken by the Board of Governors, enact a resolution or amend the WSBA bylaws. Any active member may file a petition for a referendum if it meets the criteria laid out in the WSBA Bylaws. To pass, a referendum requires a majority of those active members voting.
  • The WSBA license fee of $450 has been set the same for four consecutive years (2010-2013). The Board voted unanimously in 2011 to keep the fee the same, despite continued growth of the membership and budget pressure.
  • WSBA is both a regulatory agency and trade association. Washington is one of 32 states with a mandatory bar. The rest pay a license fee to the Supreme Court and additional fees for a bar membership. WSBA serves nearly 30,000 active members and is charged with regulating the profession as well as providing valuable services and programs to members and the public.
  • Paying your annual license fee is the equivalent of obtaining a business license. Many other professions require an annual license fee to practice in our state. While a number of professions pay less, there are many that annually pay more. For instance, midwives pay $525; chiropractors pay $607; physicians and surgeons pay $675; dentists pay $576; and auto dealers pay $750.
  • Washington's license fees are on par, when looking at other state bar associations that perform regulatory functions. Of the 32 mandatory state bars in the country, Washington's license fees rank near the middle among those states with comparable membership size (e.g., Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia). By comparison here in our region, Oregon also has a mandatory state bar with a license fee of $492 annually, and Alaska's license fee is $660.
  • Reducing the license fee to $325 is equivalent to what was collected a decade ago when WSBA membership was 28% smaller with fewer programs and services offered. A cut in license fees of this magnitude equates to a 26% budget cut, or $3.6┬ámillion, putting numerous programs and services at risk for cuts or elimination.

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