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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

BREAKING: I-747 voided by court

NPI has received word that Tim Eyman's Initiative 747, passed by Washingtin State voters in 2001, has been struck down in its entirety by King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts.

I-747 capped state and local property tax increases at 1 percent per year. It came on the heels of Initiative 722, passed by Washington State voters in 2000 and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Whitman County and several nonprofits recently sued to have Initiative 747 declared unconstitutional. They argued that I-747's ballot title failed to accurately portray its subject, and the initiative itself did not properly describe the part of RCW (the Revised Code of Washington) it was amending.

An excerpt from Roberts' decision:
When I-747 went to the voters on November 6, 2001, the voters were incorrectly led to believe they were voting to amend I-722. They were incorrectly led to believe they were voting on a change in the tax increase cap from two percent to one percent. Instead, they were voting on a change from six percent to one percent. The voters were misled as to the nature and content of the law to be amended, and the effect of the amendment upon it. The constitution forbids this.

When the voters approve an initiative measure, they exercise their power just as the Legislature does when enacting a statute. Amalgamated Transit Union, 142 Wn.2d at 204 (citations omitted). Both the legislature and the people acting in their legislative capacity must act consistent with the constitution. Id. Any law is presumed constitutional unless its unconstitutionality appears “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Tunstall v. Bergeson, 141 Wn.2d 201, 220 (2000); City of Bellevue v. Miller, 85 Wn.2d 539, 543-44 (1975); Brower v. State, 137 Wn.2d 44 (1998) (a statute enacted through the initiative process to be treated to the same presumption of constitutionality as one passed by the legislature). There can be no doubt that in this case, I-747 violates the constitution.
What this means is that I-747 is completely invalidated, and thus no longer in effect.

Knoll Lowney, who represented the plaintffs suing to invalidate I-747, said in a news relase: "The Court’s decision is a critical victory for our public school system. The court today confirmed that Eyman made false promises in pushing Initiative 747. He talked about giving taxpayers more rights, but really was stealing money from our schools, fire districts, and hospitals."

The decision and its appendices are available from Permanent Defense.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, who defended Initiative 747 (the state always defends voter approved initiatives) will doubtless appeal this decision. After all, McKenna helped write Initiative 747! But reading through Roberts' opinion, the reasoning seems pretty sound, and hopefully it will not be overturned on appeal. It's likely this is now headed to the state Supreme Court, where the other author of I-747 - Jim Johnson - sits as a justice.

We expect Johnson to recuse himself from the case.

This is a victory, to be sure. But remember that I-776 was also struck down in King County Superior Court a few years ago and later restored by the State Supreme Court in a divided decision.

Again, this is good news, but it's too early to celebrate the death of I-747.

UPDATE, 3:40 PM: The Seattle P-I has the story up on their website. Here's the last paragraph of the article:
With the failure of Referendum 65, only two of the last six ballot measures sponsored by him [Eyman] have reached the ballot. Voters approved only one of the two, last year's Initiative 900. It empowered the state auditor to conduct performance audits of state and local government agencies, but the Legislature had already passed a similar law.
It's absolutely wonderful to see the press is picking up on the point we've been making repeatedly for months: Tim Eyman is not just a liar, but a failure.

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