Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Washington’s Supreme Court strikes down I-1240 (charter schools) in its entirety

Once again, the Washington State Supreme Court has ridden to the rescue of Washington’s beleaguered public schools system.

In a monumentally important 6-3 decision released late this afternoon, the Court struck down Initiative 1240, a charter schools measure voters narrowly passed in 2012, as unconstitutional in its entirety. The decision means that Washington’s experiment with charter schools is essentially over, as the law that allowed the schools to be set up is now completely unenforceable.

Six justices (Barbara Madsen, Charles Johnson, Susan Owens, Debra Stephens, Charlie Wiggins, Mary Yu) signed the majority opinion. Three justices (Mary Fairhurst, Steven González, Sheryl Gordon McCloud) dissented in part.

A King County Superior Court judge had previously invalidated one provision of the initiative, but upheld the remaining provisions. A majority of the Supreme Court has now reversed that decision, resulting in I-1240’s total demise.

The Court reasoned:

Our constitution directs the legislature to establish and fund common schools and restricts the legislature’s power to divert funds committed to common schools for other purposes even if related to education… The Charter School Act’s diversion of basic education funds allocated to the support of the common schools and common school construction funds is unconstitutional and void.

And contrary to what the Superior Court ruled, I-1240’s provisions aren’t severable:

The Act identifies charter schools as common schools and is expressly reliant on common school funding to support such charter schools. That a funding source is required for the existence of charter schools is self-evident. As discussed above, the Act specifically intends to use common school funding allocations as that source. Without a valid funding source the charter schools envisioned in 1-1240 are not viable. Moreover, I-1240’s voters’ pamphlet stressed that the funding for charter schools will come from existing funding sources in the form of a “shift [in] revenues” from “local public school districts to charter schools.” In sum, without funding, charter schools are not viable. Nor can it be believed that voters would have approved the Charter School Act without its funding mechanism.

In conclusion:

The portions of 1-1240 designating charter schools as common schools violate article IX, section 2 of the Washington Constitution and are invalid. For the same reason, the portions of 1-1240 providing access to restricted common school funding are also invalid. These provisions are not severable and render the entire Act unconstitutional. We affirm in part and reverse in part and remand for an appropriate order.

This is a huge victory for public education that is worth celebrating. We congratulate our friends at the League of Women Voters of Washington, the Washington Education Association, El Centro de la Raza, and the Washington Association of School Administrators for having prevailed in this landmark case.

We extend our thanks to Paul Lawrence and Pacifica Law Group for their fine representation of the plaintiffs as well.

I-1240 was backed by Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Alice Walton (a Wal-Mart heiress), Nick Hanauer, Connie Ballmer, and several other incredibly wealthy individuals, who collectively gave $11 million to fund a slick, aggressive campaign to persuade a slim majority of voters to experiment with charter schools.

Progressives raised less than $1 million to wage an opposition campaign, with most of that money coming in late (in October, just as ballots were being mailed). Despite the resource disparity, the vote was very close. After the initiative went into affect, the aforementioned plaintiffs sued to have it invalidated.

Prior to I-1240’s passage, Washingtonians had decisively voted three times to reject charter schools, with the last vote having taken place in 2004.

“The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along – charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms, and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funding,” said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association, in a statement lauding the decision.

“Instead of diverting taxpayer dollars to unaccountable charter schools, it’s time for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools so that all of Washington’s children get the quality education the Constitution guarantees them,” she added.

What will happen to the state’s nine charter schools (eight of which just opened only recently) is unclear but presumably, they’ll have no choice but to become private schools. The Legislature is out of session and not likely to reconvene until January, so it will not be able to bail out the charter school operators.

Even when it does reconvene, House Democrats and Governor Jay Inslee are unlikely to be interested in reinstating the charter schools experiment, which siphons public funds away from the state’s public schools. I-1240’s backers had tried to characterize the charter schools authorized by their initiative as common schools, thinking that this would ensure I-1240 would pass constitutional muster.

The Supreme Court didn’t buy it, ruling:

[B]ecause charter schools under 1-1240 are run by an appointed board or nonprofit organization and thus are not subject to local voter control, they cannot qualify as “common schools” within the meaning of Article IX.

The Court relied on its holding in School District No. 20 v. Bryan, a case dating back to 1909. In that case, the Supreme Court defined common schools as follows:

[A] common school, within the meaning of our Constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.

Emphasis is ours.

Nothing in the Washington State Constitution prohibits the establishment of private schools, so the schools that have been set up under I-1240 don’t necessarily have to shut down. But as a result of this decision, they will no longer be able to siphon money away from the state’s publicly administered common schools.

They will need to find private sources of funding.

Maybe they can get it from the wealthy individuals who financed I-1240. Those folks certainly have the money to support the operation of a few distinguished private schools. If they were willing to open their checkbooks for a campaign, surely they’ll do so again now to help these charter schools flourish as private schools.

Washington’s Supreme Court allows Eyman’s I-1366 to proceed to November 2015 ballot

This morning, the Washington State Supreme Court rendered a preliminary verdict in Huff v. Wyman, the scope challenge to Tim Eyman’s I-1366. The Court has ruled unanimously that plaintiffs’ request for an injunction should be denied, which we understand means that I-1366 will appear on the November 2015 ballot.

The Court entered the following order:

This matter came before the en banc court on appellants’ direct appeal to this court and motion for accelerated review of a King County Superior Court order denying appellants’ motion to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing Initiative Measure No. 1366 (1-1366) on the November 2015 general election ballot.

The court has determined unanimously that the present order should be entered immediately, with an opinion explaining the court’s reasoning to be entered in due course.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
The appeal is retained by this Court for a decision on the merits.
Appellants have not made the clear showing necessary for injunctive relief as required by Rabon v. City of Seattle, 135 Wn.2d 278, 957 P.2d 621 (1998). The superior court order denying appellants’ motion for injunctive relief is affirmed.

DATED at Olympia, Washington this  4th day of September, 2015.

For the Court:

Barbara Madsen
Chief Justice

This is a curious order. On the one hand, the Court has declined to issue an injunction, which is unfortunate. It’s a decision that will please all of the defendants in the case (Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Tim Eyman, and Eyman’s associates). However, the Court has decided to retain the appeal “for a decision on the merits”. So they’re not simply washing their hands of the challenge.

Going into this, the plaintiffs knew (as did we), that a victory would be hard to achieve. But a challenge needed to be attempted. I-1366 is so destructive that it needed to be fought in every way possible.

We are grateful to the wonderful team at Pacifica Law Group – Paul Lawrence, Kymberly Evans, Sarah Washburn – who crafted and argued a solid case, first at the trial court level and then at the appellate level.

So far, it has yielded a noteworthy decision finding that I-1366 is outside the scope, which the Supreme Court has not disagreed with. The Court has signaled it has more to say, and perhaps when it does, it will affirm the King County Superior Court’s scope finding, which would set a helpful precedent.

Sadly, without an injunction, Secretary of State Wyman is going to leave I-1366 on the ballot, which means a lot of time and money is going to wasted holding an election on an initiative that is not only beyond the scope of the people’s initiative power, but blatantly unconstitutional in multiple respects.

If I-1366 is beyond the scope, then it stands to reason it will not hold up in a post-election challenge, which means it won’t ever become law.

However, we simply cannot afford to let Tim Eyman go unchallenged in the court of public opinion. We at NPI have believed, ever since Eyman revealed he had money for I-1366, that the initiative needed and deserved to be met by a strong, vigorous opposition campaign. We began our coalition-building work against this initiative last February, and have continued it even during the court case, anticipating the possibility that I-1366 would stay on the ballot.

We are pleased that more and more organizations continue to join the coalition, from the Mainstream Republicans to AARP Washington State to OneAmerica Votes. In the weeks to come, we anticipate the coalition’s roster will grow even larger, and we will significantly ramp up our efforts to educate the public about the devastation that I-1366 would cause. The use of coercion to sabotage our Constitution runs counter to the values our state was founded on. I-1366 should be defeated by voters, thereby averting the need for further litigation.

We believe our kids should not be hostages to bad politics. We urge all Washingtonians to join us in emphatically voting NO on Tim Eyman’s I-1366.

Brian Hatfield leaving Washington State Senate to take job with Inslee administration

For the second time in as many days, a Democratic lawmaker has decided to move on from the Legislature and take a job offering better compensation and benefits in Governor Jay Inslee’s administration. Yesterday, it was State Representative Ross Hunter (D-48th District); today it’s Senator Brian Hatfield (D-19th District: Aberdeen, Long Beach Raymond, Longview).

Hatfield, who has been a state senator since 2006, will be going to work for Governor Inslee as sector lead for rural economic development. It’s an issue that he has been continuously focused on during his career as a state lawmaker.

““It’s truly been a privilege to serve the people of the 19th district and it’s with a heavy heart that I leave this office,” Hatfield said a statement released by the Washington State Senate Democratic Caucus on Tuesday afternoon.

“But I will continue to serve the state in a new role and I’m excited to continue my work in rural economic development for Washington.”

“I’m proud of my work to bring jobs and economic opportunity to my part of the state and other rural areas that are too often overlooked,” he went on to say. “Our state is large and diverse, and I tried to focus on a balanced approach that looked out for all Washingtonians no matter where in the state they lived.”

The 19th is one of the few rural legislative districts in Washington represented exclusively by Democrats. The other members of the delegation are Democratic State Representatives Dean Takko and Brian Blake.

From what we’ve heard, Takko is planning to seek appointment to the Senate to take Hatfield’s spot. Senate Democrats will no doubt be pleased by this decision.

If such a succession occurs, it would result in a second vacancy, this time on the House side. Both vacancies would be filled in a special election held concurrently with next year’s presidential election in August and November 2016, when all three of the district’s seats would ordinarily be up anyway.

Word of Hatfield’s plans has been circulating for some time now, and several individuals are said to be interested in the open seat that will be created by Takko’s resignation from the House. As the Chinook Observer reports:

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but many political insiders have speculated that State Rep. Dean Takko will move into Hatfield’s spot. Several locals are reportedly vying to fill Takko’s vacancy, including Rossetti, businesswoman Tiffany Turner, county commissioner Lisa Ayers, and local historian Jim Sayce.

The 19th is a multi-county legislative district, so the constitutional responsibility of selecting nominees to fill the vacancy will fall to the statutory Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC), which consists of thirty-nine men and thirty-nine women, one each from the state’s counties. However, the statutory WSDCC will turn to the Democratic precinct committee officers of the 19th to do the actual selecting of names for each vacancy. State Party Chair Jaxon Ravens will soon call a special nominating caucus of PCOs for this purpose.

At the caucus, the PCOs will choose three names to send to the county commissioners of Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Lewis, and Grays Harbor counties, who will have sixty days to make a joint appointment. One of the names will almost certainly be Takko’s. The other two names will probably be Democratic activists who have no intention of serving in the Legislature.

For the House vacancy, three names will also be chosen. The PCOs’ top choice to fill the open seat will be listed first, followed by the PCOs’ second and third choice.

The Democratic Party generally asks that the county legislative authorities respect the wishes of the PCOs and appoint the first-ranked nominee; however, the county commissioners are free to choose any of the three names, as the Constitution gives them the authority to make a joint appointment.

After the caucus is complete, the statutory WSDCC will teleconference and ratify all the names chosen in the caucus. These will then be transmitted to the county commissioners. If the commissioners cannot agree within sixty days on who to appoint, the authority to make an appointment will pass to Governor Jay Inslee.

JCPOA with Iran will increase global security: An open letter to uncommitted Democrats

Editor’s Note: The following message regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is being sent today to Northwest Democrats Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden, Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Adam Smith, Suzanne Bonamici, and Kurt Schrader, who have not yet committed to taking a position on the agreement with Iran negotiated by President Obama’s administration. We are publishing our message to them here on the Cascadia Advocate as an open letter.

Dear Senators and Representatives:

Seven years ago, at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, President Bill Clinton gave a speech in support of our current President, Barack Obama, during which he astutely noted, “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.”

Those words resonated then, and they continue to resonate today.

In cooperation with the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council as well as Germany and the European Union, President Obama’s administration has negotiated a historic agreement with Iran that will increase global security by preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Our recent P5+1 talks with the administration of Hassan Rouhani, which produced an accord that the world community enthusiastically supports, demonstrates our ability to lead by example through diplomacy.

As Republicans in Congress move forward with plans to schedule a vote on a resolution of disapproval against this historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, we ask that you join your colleagues Patty Murray, Jeff Merkley, Jim McDermott, Denny Heck, Earl Blumenauer, and Peter DeFazio in endorsing it without delay. President Obama at least needs the support of his own party in Congress to show the world that he is not the only American elected leader committed to honoring the agreement we negotiated.

Contrary to what many Republicans in Congress have suggested, going back to the negotiating table is not an option. They should heed the words of fellow Republican Brent Scowcroft, who served Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush as National Security Adviser. In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, Scowcroft wrote:

There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone. The world’s leading powers worked together effectively because of U.S. leadership. To turn our back on this accomplishment would be an abdication of the United States’ unique role and responsibility, incurring justified dismay among our allies and friends. We would lose all leverage over Iran’s nuclear activities. The international sanctions regime would dissolve. And no member of Congress should be under the illusion that another U.S. invasion of the Middle East would be helpful.

Twenty-nine leading American nuclear scientists also believe this agreement is a significant accomplishment. In an August 8th letter to President Barack Obama, they offered their enthusiastic endorsement and congratulations, writing:

As you have stated, this deal does not take any options off the table for you or any future president. Indeed it will make it much easier for you or a future president to know if and when Iran heads for a bomb, and the detection of a significant violation of this agreement will provide strong, internationally supported justification for intervention.

Over seventy nuclear nonproliferation experts have carefully inspected the text of the JCPOA and determined that it is “strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement”:

The JCPOA is effectively verifiable. The agreement will put in place a multi-layered monitoring regime across Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, including centrifuge manufacturing sites (for 20 years), uranium mining and milling (for 25 years), and continuous monitoring of a larger number of nuclear and nuclear-related sites.

Dozens of respected retired military leaders – including Generals James Cartright (U.S. Marine Corps), Merrill McPeak (U.S. Air Force), and Lloyd Newton (U.S. Army) – agree. In a recently released open letter, they state:

There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented. If the Iranians cheat, our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it, and U.S. military options remain on the table. And if the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year. The choice is that stark.

Seventy-five former members of Congress, including Republicans Richard Lugar, Paul Findley, Philip Ruppe, Daniel Hamburg, and Wayne Gilchrest, have likewise evaluated the JCPOA and have concluded it is worth supporting.

In a letter dated today, they write:

We agree that no deal is better than a bad deal. But we also agree that a good deal is better than no deal. Congress has played an important role in making this agreement possible through bipartisan support of sanctioning and isolating the government of Iran. We urge you and your colleagues to take the next steps by supporting this agreement and then exercising your oversight role through the robust monitoring and evaluation of its implementation.

Three hundred and forty U.S. rabbis (including ten from Washington and Oregon)  recently added their voices in support as well, noting that research shows a majority of American Jews are in favor of the JCPOA. They write:

Now that a nuclear agreement has been reached, we call on the United States and its international partners to strengthen their resolve and dedicate additional resources to confront Iranian threats to Israel and other states. Most especially, we are deeply concerned with the impression that the leadership of the American Jewish community is united in opposition to the agreement. We, along with many other Jewish leaders, fully support this historic nuclear accord.

You have doubtless already received many letters, phone calls, emails, and faxes generated by the well-organized lobbies fighting for the rejection of this agreement. Sadly, opponents of America’s successful diplomacy are spending tens of millions of dollars in an effort to sway public opinion and members of Congress to their side. If they win, America’s commitment to the pivotal agreement that our diplomats provided a leading role in bringing about will be in jeopardy.

America has a noble tradition of doing the public’s business in public; the freedoms guaranteed to us in the Bill of Rights, including the freedom of the press, have long permitted our politics to be more easily followed and studied from afar.

The other parties to this agreement, the United Nations, and observers throughout the world community are watching the debate we are having now about the JCPOA. They understand that the current crop of Republicans in Congress are reflexively (or almost reflexively) opposed to whatever President Obama does or proposes.

What they want to know is whether Democratic members of the United States Congress will step up and sustain this pivotal agreement.

We believe that there is only one responsible position to take on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and that is to fully support its implementation.

Last week, as mentioned, your colleague Senator Patty Murray took such a position. She said, “I will be voting to support the agreement to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I will vote against the resolution of disapproval, and, if needed, I will vote against overriding President Obama’s veto.”

We ask you to make this same commitment without delay.

We do not have the luxury of starting over. The JCPOA is an agreement produced by months and years of multilateral negotiations. As President Obama has said, it is an agreement that is based on verification measures, not trust or hope. For it to work as intended, Democrats in Congress must endorse it.

Time – and our intelligence – will tell if Iran lives up to its commitments under the JCPOA. But we must at least live up to ours. And we also must recognize that implementing the JCPOA puts us in a better position to respond if Iran does not ultimately follow through on its obligations.

As Senator Murray said in her statement of support, “I believe it puts us in a better and stronger position to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons now and in the future — even if they continue down their current extreme path, and even if they get worse. This deal gives us more tools to respond – not less, and it keeps the international community behind us in that effort.”

President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and our hardworking diplomats have done their part to advance the cause of nuclear nonproliferation by negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and other world powers. America’s commitment to this incredibly important accord is now in your hands. We urge you to publish a statement emphatically declaring your support for the JCPOA and pledging to vote accordingly before this coming Labor Day weekend.

Thank you for your service to our country.

Sincerely,

The Northwest Progressive Institute

Andrew Villeneuve
Founder and executive director
Robert Cruickshank
President
Gael Tarleton
Vice President-Secretary
Essie Hicks
Treasurer

Governor Jay Inslee appoints 48th LD’s Ross Hunter as new Director of Early Learning

State Representative Ross Hunter (D-48th District: Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Medina, Clyde Hill, the Points communities) will soon be leaving the Legislature to join Jay Inslee’s administration as Director of the Department of Early Learning, the governor’s office announced in a late-morning press release.

“With landmark investments this year, Washington state is poised to be a world leader in early learning,” Inslee said in his statement confirming the appointment. “Ross will ensure that those investments bring returns for our children, making sure every family has access to quality early learning opportunities.”

Hunter, who has served in the House of Representatives for thirteen years, said he was excited to get to work. He will begin on September 8th.

“The opportunity to improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of at-risk children is incredibly compelling,” Hunter said. “I cannot wait to get started.”

“My first task is to get to know the department’s dedicated staff and connect with the dedicated and passionate stakeholders who have done so much to bring world-class early learning to Washington children.”

While Hunter plans to leave the Legislature, he has not set a date for his departure yet. His resignation will create a vacancy which will likely be filled by the King County Council, as the 48th Legislative District is wholly within the county’s boundaries.

As stipulated in the Washington State Constitution, the Council will be required to choose from among three potential candidates selected by the King County Democratic Central Committee (KCDCC).

In practice, however, the list of names will be drawn up by those members of the KCDCC who serve as Democratic precinct committee officers in the 48th, and then the executive board of KCDCC will affirm the selections. The party traditionally creates a ranked list and then asks the Council to appoint its first choice.

Hunter has published a post to his personal blog where he elaborates on his decision to accept this new position and move on from the Legislature:

I came to the Legislature more than 13 years ago to fix the way we fund education in Washington State.

Towards that end I’ve led the charge to clarify and broaden the definition of “basic education,” successfully reduced K-3 class sizes, funded all day kindergarten, and provided students with adequate materials and supplies in their classrooms. Clearly there is still work to do on the remaining portions of McCleary, but the end is in sight and the problems (and reasonable solutions) are well understood.

Late last week Governor Inslee asked me to help with another key element of the education continuum and to serve as the Director of the Department of Early Learning. With the passage of the Early Start Act this year the Legislature made an historic investment in high quality opportunities for all of our state’s children. I’m incredibly pleased with the opportunity to have huge positive impact on outcomes for young children. I look forward to leading the implementation of this act and taking DEL in new and exciting directions.

We extend our congratulations to Representative Hunter on his new position with the Department of Early Learning. We know Ross as a dedicated champion for school funding and youth empowerment; we have no doubt DEL will benefit from his talents and enthusiasm. The House’s loss is the Department’s gain.

Representative Hunter is the second member of the House of Representatives that Inslee has tapped to work on education in his administration; he follows in the footsteps of Marcie Maxwell, formerly one of the 41st District’s two state representatives. She now serves as a senior adviser to Inslee on education.

When Marcie resigned last cycle, the, the 41st’s PCOs met in a special nominating caucus and recommended Mercer Island’s Tana Senn as their first choice to fill the vacancy. Senn was subsequently appointed by the King County Council, and had no trouble holding the seat in a tough election year.

The process of replacing Hunter is likely to be just as simple and anxiety-free, which will please Democratic party leaders and activists who want to defend the party’s House majority while also recapturing control of the state Senate in 2016. As it is too late to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy that Hunter’s resignation will create this year, we’ll see a special election held concurrently with next year’s Top Two and general elections, when all positions in the House will be up.

The 48th is a very Democratic district, as evidenced by the results of the last two election cycles. In 2012, first-time candidate Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, defeated Redmond City Councilmember Hank Myers, a Republican, by a more than twenty-point margin. In 2014, when Rodney Tom retired, Habib easily won election to the Senate, while Joan McBride retained Habib’s House seat by a similarly ridiculous margin. Republicans failed to field credible candidates against either.

With Hunter’s departure, Habib will become the senior member of the 48th’s delegation to Olympia. He’s had a remarkable rise, going from freshman Representative to senior lawmaker in less than four years.

Serving in the Legislature is, in many respects, a thankless, tiring job, which is one reason why the institution sees turnover. Representative Ross Hunter has given thirteen years to the House of Representatives. For several of those years, he has been the House Democrats’ chief budget writer, tasked with hammering out compromises with the Republican-controlled Senate.

Having put in so many years of service to the House, Hunter could have moved on and chosen to take a job in the private sector as a way of starting a new challenge. We have no doubt many companies would have been glad to hire him. But instead, he’s remaining in the public sphere and continuing his service as a key leader in Governor Inslee’s administration. That’s good news for Washington State.

Tim Eyman confirms his worst nightmare: Progressive tax reform for Washington State

In the late 1990s, before he became a prominent salesman of destructive right wing initiatives, Tim Eyman was a seller of wristwatches to fraternities. After discovering just how lucrative selling initiatives to wealthy conservative donors could be, Eyman abandoned his wristwatch business and became a full-time, richly compensated initiative pitchman — an occupation he continues to hold.

Something that’s played a big role in keeping Eyman in business for over fifteen years is Washington State’s horribly regressive tax structure, which is the worst in the nation. We have a tax code that requires middle and low income families to pay a much larger percentage of their income in dues to the state than wealthy families.

This broken tax code has been the gift that keeps on giving for Tim Eyman, in two important ways. First, it helps keep the gears of his initiative factory lubricated with cash. Wealthy right wing donors like living in a state where they can get what amounts to a free ride, and they’re only too happy to open their checkbooks for Tim, who uses some of their money to qualify destructive schemes for the ballot to keep it that way, while pocketing the rest for himself as profit.

Second, it results in an electorate more receptive to Eyman’s initiatives. If tax obligations were fair in Washington and people were asked to pay according to their means, there would be less of an appetite for schemes to eviscerate our common wealth and wreck government. Eyman’s followers would still be enthusiastic, of course, but they’re only a fraction of the electorate. If Eyman can’t win at the ballot at least some of the time, his power and influence disappears. He knows that.

That’s why Tim fears progressive tax reform. It’s his worst nightmare. Were we to make our tax code fairer, it’d be very bad for his business. He might even have to find a new (and possibly less lucrative) source of income.

Though Tim claims that Washington voters are extremely hostile to the idea of an income tax and would never go for it, it still really, really, really bothers him when our state’s mass media give progressives space to talk about the idea, because he fears the possibility that we’ll be successful in educating the public about the merits of adopting a state-level tax that is based on ability to pay.

Hence, Tim’s email this morning:

To:  Our thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc’d to the media, house & senate members, and Governor)

From: Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, & Mike Fagan [contact info redacted]

RE: “Tim Eyman wrecked the state government’s ability to manage its business” says pusher of state income tax

There’s a huge push right now for the Legislature to impose a new state income tax (reason #1 that we make sure Initiative 1366 passes in November). A local liberal columnist in today’s Everett Herald is salivating over a new $5 billion PER YEAR tax increase (to put a $5 billion annual tax increase in perspective, he’d have to raise the statewide sales tax to 15% to get that kind of money).

He writes:  “You can’t just middle through to get $5 billion … it would be incredibly easy to get this money, if we had the political leadership willing to do so … look across I-405 to Redmond or to the tony neighborhoods of Hunts Point and Medina.  Note the new buildings, new cars, new remodels, new houses, and realize that is just the tip of the iceberg of new income and wealth in our state.  The beneficiaries, indeed the takers, of this wealth … we don’t tax income at all.”

The column Eyman is referring to, which he doesn’t properly cite, let alone bother to link to, is this sensible piece from Economic Opportunity Institute Executive Director John Burbank (State income tax would fix school funding and much more).

(The subject line of Eyman’s email is not from John’s column at all, by the way, but from an August 12th letter to the editor of The Herald which Eyman doesn’t cite. This is par for the course; Eyman has always been sloppy with attribution. )

John’s premise is that we could properly fund education from preschool to college if we levied a state income tax as the centerpiece of a reform effort. From his op-ed:

How much revenue would a progressive income tax provide for public services? First exempt $50,000 of income. Then put in place effective tax rates of 2 percent for a $100,000 household, 3.5 percent for a $200,000 household, 5 percent for a $500,000 household, 6.25 percent for a million dollar household, and 8.125 percent for a $2 million household. That would raise $7.5 billion.

Now let’s do the math:

  • $7.5 billion in new revenue,
  • Minus $3 billion for K-12 education,
  • Minus $1.5 billion for higher education tuition,
  • Minus $500 million for early childhood education.

That leaves $2.5 billion on the table. With that, we could take a bite out of our regressive tax system by dropping the sales tax by 1.5 cents. That would cost about $1.5 billion. And that leaves $1 billion a year for other public services and a reserve.

This is actually a very modest proposal, which would raise badly needed revenue for the state while easing the state’s dependency on the sales tax. Lowering the sales tax would reduce tax obligations for Washington’s middle and low income families, who again pay much more of their income in taxes than wealthy families do.

Though John’s proposal would lower the sales tax in 2017 by as much as Scenario 1 of Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366, Eyman didn’t bother to mention that aspect of it. Instead, he proceeded to take great offense at the very progressive, very sensible idea of asking wealthy people to pay their fair share:

The lust, the envy, the wanton coveting of others’ possessions oozing from his column feels incredibly filthy and unseemly.

Just because some people have things they’ve earned doesn’t give others the right to take it.

There is no lust or wanton coveting in John’s column. That’s wholly imagined on Tim’s part. What’s truly filthy and unseemly are Tim’s destructive initiatives and toxic politics. Tim has some nerve calling somebody else’s writing filthy, given his penchant for petty name calling and circulation of disgusting memes.

In the portion of the column that Tim excerpts and jeers at, John is alluding to the important truth that there are no self-made men or women in America.

Every entrepreneur, every businessperson, every successful investor uses the public’s infrastructure that the taxpayers paid for to make their money, whether that’s the Internet, seaports and airports, the interstate highway system, research conducted by our publicly owned universities, or the courts (the vast majority of civil cases in our courts concern business disputes and corporate law).

Without taxes, we don’t get schools, police and fire protection, roads and transit, or any of the other public goods we use in our daily lives. These are things we couldn’t afford as individuals. It is only by pooling our resources together as a people that we can afford them. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer and to pay one’s dues.

If nobody pays their dues, the vital public services that support our economy collapse — and our economy goes with it.

Tim ended his email as he always does — by exhorting his supporters to give him more money. Success of his hostage-taking I-1366, he claimed, will shut down discussion of a state income tax. As Eyman put it: “The overwhelming passage of Initiative 1366 will be the best way to repudiate this kind of talk.”

So much for free speech.

I have no doubt that Tim will soon end up reading this blog post, so I’ll just address him directly with a few closing remarks.

Listen, Tim, the same First Amendment that gives you the right to spew your garbage gives us the right to talk about making our state a better place to live, work, play, and go on vacation. We’re not going to stop talking about progressive tax reform, no matter what happens with your hostage-taking I-1366. We’re not going to stop laying the groundwork for action, either.

In fact, your attack on John Burbank’s op-ed merely reinforces our motivation to help ensure the conversation about progressive tax reform expands to become more prevalent and inclusive in the years ahead.

Your initiatives are all about protecting the rich from having to pay their fair share and keeping our tax code broken so there will always be grist for future schemes to harm the government that belongs to all of us as a people. You claim to be a champion of the common man, but that is a complete crock, as anyone can see from looking at the PDC reports of your initiative factory’s many committees.

You’re relentless, to be sure, but so are we. NPI just celebrated twelve years of continuous operation and development. We’re here for the long haul, and we will not only maintain our permanent defense against your initiative factory, but work energetically to reform the broken tax code that facilitates its existence.

Patty Murray announces support for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran

Washington’s senior U.S. senator and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the United States Senate, Patty Murray, has just released a lengthy statement pledging to support President Barack Obama by voting against a resolution of disapproval concerning the  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.

The first paragraphs of the statement are as follows:

There are no more momentous decisions facing a United States Senator than those involving war, peace, and the safety and security of our families, our servicemembers, our allies, and our nation. When it comes to these issues, my constituents expect me to do everything I can to cut through the politics, push aside the partisanship, break through the rhetoric, and make the best possible decision with the information we have. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I have approached my decision on the upcoming vote on this deal the same way I approached my decision to support a war in Afghanistan, and the same way I approached my decision to oppose a war in Iraq.

In the weeks since the deal was announced, I have been studying the details, talking to experts, asking questions, getting more information, and listening to my constituents on all sides of the issue.

I pushed the Administration for details and answers to tough questions, and I had frank conversations with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary Kerry. I attended classified briefings with the State Department, Energy Department, and members of the intelligence community. I had good conversations with Israeli Ambassador Dermer and so many strong and passionate supporters on both sides of this issue in Washington state and across the country.

And I came away from my conversations with a deep respect for the passionate and strongly-argued views on all sides of this issue.

Going into this decision, I had clear principles guiding my thinking.

First and foremost, Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and my decision would be based on what course of action moves us closer to that primary goal.

Second, Iran cannot be trusted, and no deal should hinge on them holding up their end of the bargain based on their word or good faith alone. Third, a strong diplomatic solution is the best option.

And fourth, the United States needs to keep all options on the table, including military options, if Iran decides to move toward a nuclear weapon or threatens us or our allies in any other way.

Guided by these principles, I will be voting to support the agreement to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I will vote against the resolution of disapproval, and, if needed, I will vote against overriding President Obama’s veto. 

Emphasis is ours.

We thank Senator Murray for taking a principled stand for peace, not war, and giving diplomacy a chance to work. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best way for us to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

Senator Murray joins over two dozen other Democrats, including Senator Harry Reid and Senator Dick Durbin, as supporters of the JCPOA. Only two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez, have come out in opposition so far.

If at least forty-one Democrats band together, they could hold up a resolution of disapproval in the U.S. Senate and prevent it from even getting to President Obama’s desk, thanks to the Senate’s undemocratic rules, which allow a submajority of senators to preserve the status quo and prevent the Senate from acting on legislation (or in this case, adopting a resolution).

Murray is the first of the Pacific Northwest’s Democratic senators to take a firm position on the JCPOA. Now it’s time for her colleagues Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden, and Jeff Merkley to follow suit. There is only one position they can responsibly take, and that is to support this agreement and the President who negotiated it.

Governor Inslee rebukes Senate Republicans: Let’s do our jobs, not fight the Supreme Court

Washington Governor Jay Inslee had strong words for Senate Republicans this afternoon after a majority (but not all) of the caucus published an open letter urging the Legislature’s other caucuses to join them in instigating a constitutional crisis by retaliating against the state Supreme Court for its recent McCleary order.

“Today I convened a call with legislative leaders of both caucuses in the House and Senate to discuss next steps on the recent Supreme Court McCleary ruling,” the governor said in a statement sent to NPI shortly before 3 PM. “In that call I asked all four caucuses to appoint members to work in a bipartisan group to find a solution that fully funds education, complies with the court order, and removes the contempt order and sanctions that have been imposed upon the state.”

“Not all of the caucuses agreed to do so.”

“At the same time this morning, members of the Senate Republican caucus issued a lengthy letter about the court’s ruling. It is unfortunate that those members are more focused on a legally dubious theory that attacks the Court rather than on finding a productive solution to our education challenge. They should not be looking for a constitutional crisis, they should be looking for an education solution.”

The letter the governor refers to was signed by the most radical and extreme members of the Senate Republican caucus, including Senators Jan Angel, Pam Roach, Don Benton, Michael Baumgartner, and Doug Ericksen. It goes on at length at how the state Supreme Court is violating the Constitutions of the Evergreen State and the United States by holding the Legislature in contempt for failing to fully fund Washington’s public schools in accordance with Article IX, Section 1.

“The constitutional crises that we and the court were warned about is here,” the nineteen wrote in a six page letter addressed to House Democrats, House Republicans, and Senate Democrats, who were sent copies by hand.

“We have all taken oaths to uphold the state constitution. We owe to our constituents and their children not only amply-funded schools but a functioning republic in this state. It is now time for us to explore the range of political, legal, and constitutional responses that we have at our disposal. Please let us know at your earliest convenience how you and your respective caucuses intend to proceed.”

Inslee made clear he does not share Senate Republicans’ desire to fight the Court, and wants to get back to work instead of escalating a constitutional showdown.

“I am focused on fully funding education, providing our students and educators what they need, and submitting a plan that complies with the court order. Focusing on anything else is a political distraction. I look forward to hearing from all the caucuses next week in the hopes that all the caucuses will focus on a solution to this educational challenge and contempt citation rather than on excuses for inaction.”

Senate Democrats made the same points.

“Guess MCC [what the Senate Republicans and Tim Sheldon call themselves] wants to re-litigate Marbury v Madison (1803),” tweeted Senator David Frockt. “Here’s an idea. Let’s get it together and fully fund education.”

He noted Senate Republicans’ defiance was to blame for the constitutional crisis, not the Court, which has been incredibly patient with the Legislature.

“How can a constitutional ruling of our state’s highest court itself be unconstitutional?” he wondered. “Where does it end?”

“I don’t care what Senate Republicans think of the Court’s order,” declared Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson (D-34th District; West Seattle and Vashon-Maury Island). “Neither do kids who continue to move through our K-12 system in crumbling schools. Neither do teachers who have to leave the profession they love because they can’t afford to feed their families. Neither do parents who send their kids to overcrowded schools and classrooms year after year. The one and only thing any of us should care about is fixing these issues and fixing them now.”

If the Washington State Supreme Court was controlled by conservatives, like the U.S. Supreme Court is, Senate Republicans would be revering and defending it — not attacking it. But since it isn’t, and since there aren’t any conservative jurists left on its democratically-elected bench, Republicans feel no hesitation in going after the Court as an institution, attempting to undermine its legitimacy.

“The Washington Supreme Court has gone rogue. It is time for articles of impeachment,” tweeted Republican State Representative Matt Manweller in the wake of the Supreme Court’s most recent McCleary order.

He followed that up with: “First WA Supreme Court in history to issue a press release BEFORE issuing their decision. Nice slick website too. Pathetic.”

Quite a few of his tweets since then have been jabs directed at the Supreme Court.

Michael Baumgartner, one of the letter’s nineteen signatories, has also launched rhetorical attacks on the Court. His response to the McCleary order was this retort: “Breaking News: Baumgartner fines Supreme Court for civic incompetence. Orders Judges to write ‘co-equal branches’ 100x per day.”

Baumgartner previously introduced a bill to shrink the size of the state Supreme Court from nine to five justices — a move no doubt intended to make it easier for conservatives to try to take control of the institution in a subsequent set of statewide elections, as they would only need to win three seats. He also filed a silly bill mocking the McCleary orders and instructing the Court to take more cases.

None of Baumgartner’s inane bills have gone anywhere.

We agree with Governor Inslee: Rather than attempting to escalate a constitutional crisis with the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans should focus on getting back to work. Republicans spend way too much time patting themselves on the back and making excuses for mediocrity. We have the nation’s most regressive tax system and we rank close to last in class size. We’re not adequately compensating our teachers or providing school districts with the resources they need.

The Legislature has continually relied on budget gimmicks, including accounting tricks and fund transfers, to make the state’s books balance. The focus has been on treating symptoms, not addressing the root cause of our education funding problems. Every year, Republicans say it’s not a good time to raise taxes or work on tax reform. That is why our funding problems won’t go away.

Republicans are being misleading when they try to pit the blame for the lack of progress solely on Democrats. For example, last week Matt Manweller tweeted “Dems were in charge for 20 years and led us to this crisis.”

That’s not true. For much of the 1990s, Republicans had control of at least one house of the Legislature, and there was a stretch when they had both houses. In the early 2000s, they controlled the state Senate by a narrow majority. Now they have control of the Senate again. And they’re hungry for more power.

Sadly, these nineteen Republicans have just demonstrated they are more interested in scoring political points and inciting a power struggle than helping Democrats tackle our school funding crisis. Some of them, notably Baumgartner, Ericksen, Benton, and Roach, are even supporting Tim Eyman’s I-1366, which would wipe out $8 billion (with a b) in sales tax revenue over the next six years. That’s beyond irresponsible and beyond shameful — it’s unconscionable.

There are, thankfully, Republicans who are standing up against the politics of hostage-taking; the Mainstream Republicans have taken a position opposing Eyman’s I-1366. But sadly, there aren’t many Republicans left who seem interested in truly defending republicanism and upholding Washington’s values.

State Supreme Court rules that SeaTac’s Good Jobs Proposition applies to airport workers

Workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport must be paid a minimum wage of $15/hour in accordance with the City of SeaTac’s Good Jobs law (Proposition #1, enacted by voters in 2013) the Washington State Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Susan Owens, the Court held the airport is not exempt from the law, even though it is administered by the Port of Seattle.

Owens was joined by fellow associate Justices Charles Johnson, Steven González, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, and Mary Yu.

Justices Debra Stephens, Barbara Madsen (the chief justice), Mary Fairhurst, and Charlie Wiggins dissented in part, with Stephens writing the dissenting opinion.

The case, No. 89723-9, involves four different parties. The respondents and cross-appellants are several businesses: Filo Foods LLC, BF Foods, LLC, Alaska Airlines, Inc. and the Washington Restaurant Association. As Filo Foods is the lead respondent, its name appears throughout the text of the Court’s opinion.

Summarizing the case and the majority oinion, Justice Owens writes, “Filo Foods challenges the validity of Proposition 1 on several grounds. First, Filo Foods argues that Proposition 1 is procedurally invalid in its entirety because it violates the single-subject rule. We hold that Proposition 1 does not violate the single-subject rule.”

“Second, Filo Foods contends that under state law, Proposition 1 may not be applied at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.”

“We conclude that Proposition 1 can be applied at the airport because there is no indication that it will interfere with airport operations.

“Third, Filo Foods argues that federal law preempts Proposition 1, in whole or, alternatively, in part. We conclude federal law does not preempt Proposition 1 in whole or in part. Finally, Filo Foods argues that Proposition 1 violates the dormant commerce clause; we conclude that it does not.”

“Thus, we find Proposition 1 valid in its entirety.”

The Court’s decision – a remarkable dismissal of all the issues raised by the business groups opposed to the law – is a significant victory for Washington State’s labor movement and will result in many more workers receiving badly needed wage increase and additional protections while on the job.

Up until now, the SeaTac Good Jobs initiative has only been enforced in the City of SeaTac outside of the airport, due to lower courts having ruled that the City did not have the authority to set wages inside the airport.

Now that the Supreme Court has found otherwise, the Good Jobs initiative can take full effect and work the way that it was supposed to.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement praising the ruling and noting his office’s involvement in the case, which reads in part:

In holding that the City’s ordinance protects airport workers, the Court relied in part on the AG’s argument about how to interpret the state minimum wage law:  “This argument regarding the Washington Minimum Wage Act was first advanced by the Washington State Attorney General.” (Filo Foods, LLC v. City of SeaTac, page 19.)

“I’m pleased the Court adopted my office’s proposed approach as a key part of its 5-4 decision,” Ferguson said.

“This important ruling helps protect the rights of workers at SeaTac Airport and recognizes the broad authority state and local governments have to support their hard-working residents.”

The appeal hinged on what interpretation of state law governing ports was correct: the City of SeaTac’s or the Port of Seattle’s. The Court decided that the City’s interpretation of the law was correct. Justice Owens writes:

The city of SeaTac contends that the legislature intended to give the Port of Seattle jurisdiction over only airport operations, whereas the Port of Seattle contends that the legislature intended to prohibit any city of SeaTac law or regulation from applying at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. As described below, we reject the Port of Seattle’s interpretation because we find it, among other things, incompatible with a special purpose district’s limited powers.

Unlike cities, which are granted “the broadest powers of local self-government,” RCW 35A.01.010, a port district is a special purpose district, which “is limited in its powers to those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to the powers expressly granted, and also those essential to the declared objects and purposes of the corporation.”

She goes on to note:

The legislature expressly instructed that the purpose of the statutory scheme is to ensure uniformity in the laws regarding aeronautics. RCW 14.08.340. Additionally, the law detailing the specific powers of municipalities operating airports, RCW 14.08.120(1), provides that a municipality may establish a board responsible for “the construction, enlargement, improvement, maintenance, equipment, operation, and regulation [of the airport or other air navigation facility].”

These aspects of the statutory scheme lead us to conclude that the legislature intended to vest authority for the operation of the airport exclusively with the Port of Seattle, but not to prohibit a local municipality like the city of SeaTac from regulating for the general welfare in a manner unrelated to airport operations.

And concludes:

Absent a factual showing that Proposition 1 would interfere with airport operations, the proposition does not conflict with the Port of Seattle’s jurisdiction or ability to operate the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Therefore, Proposition 1 can be validly enforced at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Four of Owens’ colleagues took issue with this rationale and signed a dissenting opinion holding that the state’s Revised Airports Act does prevent the City from being able to enforce the Good Jobs Initiative at the airport. (The dissenting opinion is concerned with this issue alone; the justices were all in agreement that federal labor law does not preempt the SeaTac Good Jobs initiative).

“I disagree with the majority’s conclusion that Proposition 1 may be applied at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport consistent with the Revised Airports Act, RCW 14.08.330,” Justice Debra Stephens writes, beginning her dissent.

She goes on to say: “In my view, the majority’s result offends the statute’s plain language, which provides that ‘[e]very airport’ shall be under ‘the exclusive jurisdiction and control’ of the ‘municipality…  controlling and operating it.'”

“Here, it is undisputed that the Port of Seattle controls and operates the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Its jurisdiction is therefore exclusive. Further, the statute provides ‘[n]o other municipality in which the airport… is located shall have any police jurisdiction of the [airport].'”

“It is undisputed that the city of SeaTac is the municipality in which the airport is located. The city of SeaTac thus has no police jurisdiction at the airport. A straightforward application of RCW 14.08.330 should end the matter.”

Stephens goes on to argue:

The majority’s distinction, between the airport as a geographic area and as a set of functional activities (“airport operations or the subject of aeronautics,” id.), is nowhere to be found in the statute. The subject of the statute is simply “[e]very airport.” RCW 14.08.330.

The statute does not slice and dice an “airport” to reveal some sort of “core airport function” judicial test. Instead the statute concerns, as its language says it does, the airport.

The statute’s structure confirms this. The statute follows a general rule/exception structure. Its general rule is that the municipality controlling and operating the airport (the Port of Seattle) shall have exclusive jurisdiction and control over the airport, and that no other municipality in which the airport is located (the city of SeaTac) shall have any police jurisdiction of the airport. RCW 14.08.330.

The statute then has one exception to that rule. The exception provides “However, … a municipality in which an airport… is located may be responsible for the administration and enforcement of the uniform fire code… on that portion of any airport… located with its jurisdictional boundaries,” so long as it does this “by agreement with the municipality operating and controlling the airport,” (the Port of Seattle). Id. Thus, a fire code is the single circumstance in which the city of SeaTac can enforce its laws within the airport.

The majority opinion contains a response to this argument:

The dissent asserts that the provision of RCW 14.08.330 related to the administration and enforcement of local fire codes “disproves” our interpretation of the statute. Dissent at 6.

It asserts that “[i]f the legislature intended the operating municipality’s exclusive jurisdiction to be over only [airport operations], why would the legislature specify an exception from the operating municipality’s exclusive jurisdiction to allow the municipality in which the airport sits to enforce afire code at the airport?” Id. at 6-7. The legislative history of the fire code amendment answers the dissent’s question.

The house committee in support of the bill testified, “Seattle has been enforcing its uniform fire code on the portion of the King County airport located within its boundaries, but their attorney feels they may not have this authority… This bill clarifies an ambiguity in current law.” H.B. REPORT ON H.B. 139, 49th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Wash. 1985).

That language shows that the legislature added the fire code language because it recognized that the statute’s ambiguous language called into question Seattle’s ability to enforce the uniform fire code.

By adding in the language, it “clarifie[d] an ambiguity.” 5 Id. Rather than disproving our interpretation, the house bill reinforces our conclusion that the statute’s language is ambiguous.

The dissenting justices feel that the Court’s holding in this case sets an unwelcome precedent and will result in confusion going forward. They assert:

The legislature did not intend to foster a cottage industry of litigation over airport operations, where the courts arrive at case-by-case conclusory determinations under an imprecise test. It chose to draw a clear line. It enacted a statute that gives exclusive jurisdiction and control to the operating municipality. RCW 14.08.330.

And it specifically said that “[n]o other municipality in which the airport … is located shall have any police jurisdiction of the [airport].” Id.

The legislature understood that because airports are unique, complex operations, they should be governed by one and only one local government—the one that specializes in controlling and operating them. This desire to have legal clarity at airports is especially understandable considering that airports can straddle multiple municipal, county, or state lines.

Given that a majority of our Supreme Court thinks the existing statute is ambiguous, the Legislature may wish to amend the Revised Airports Act to more clearly define where a city’s authority ends and a port’s begins.

In the meantime, because the City of SeaTac’s interpretation of the state laws governing ports has prevailed, workers earning the lower minimum wage set by the Port of Seattle will see their pay go up. That’s a victory to be celebrated.

Reuven Carlyle announces he will seek appointment to State Senate in 36th District

State Representative and House Finance Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle announced today in a Facebook posting that he will be a candidate to succeed Jeanne Kohl-Welles as State Senator from the 36th Legislative District later this year if Kohl-Welles is successful in winning election to Larry Phillips’ county council seat.

“As we move closer to the general election, it is increasingly likely the wise voters will send my gracious, indefatigable seat mate Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles to serve on the King County Council,” Carlyle noted. (Kohl-Welles only has one opponent, who she is expected to trounce in November).

“This would leave a vacancy for Sen. Kohl-Welles’ Senate seat prior to the 2016 session. I’ve reflected on the options and decided that change, on a personal and professional level, can be healthy and constructive. After seven years in the House, I plan to seek appointment to the probable Senate vacancy.”

“If you are a PCO in the 36th Legislative District, I will reach out directly at the appropriate time to respectfully ask for the honor of your support. There are no less than six highly qualified, passionate, engaged community leaders in our district who have expressed a formal interest in being appointed to my seat in the House. Serving as a citizen legislator and representing the good people of our district and state is a profoundly moving honor. Thank you!”

Carlyle’s announcement immediately drew accolades.

“I wish to offer my seatmate, State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, a public and profound thanks for all your work on behalf of the people of the 36th District and Washington State as our Representative,” said Carlyle’s seatmate Gael Tarleton, who serves as Vice President-Secretary of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

“Your devotion to foster children, public education, fair and transparent tax policy,and treatment for those suffering from mental illnesses has changed our communities for the better. Thank you for being willing to keep up the fight for all of us by seeking the appointment to the State Senate in the very likely event that the voters choose the thoughtful, unstoppable Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles to be our voice on the King County Council this November.”

“I am so honored to represent the 36th District in the State House and will look forward to serving in the House with whomever is appointed as representative.”

Six candidates have emerged as possible replacements for Carlyle, who, as mentioned, will be vacating his House seat to move over to the Senate.

They are:

  • Economic Opportunity Institute executive director John Burbank, who ran for the seat Carlyle now holds in 2008 and lost;
  • Former Progressive Majority Washington executive director Noel Frame, who ran for state House in 2012 and lost to Gael Tarleton;
  • Attorney and NO on I-1366 officer Randy Gordon, who succeeded Fred Jarrett in 2010 following Fred’s appointment as Deputy King County Executive, but was unsuccessful in his fall campaign to hold the seat;
  • Administrative law judge Jeff Manson, who has served for several years as the chair of the 36th District Democrats;
  • Activist Rene Murry, the chair of the Children’s Campaign Fund and owner of Piece by Piece, a firm that helps people relocate;
  • Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld, who has worked for the Attorney General’s office since 2012, and previously as a law clerk.

As the 36th is wholly within the boundaries of King County, the King County Council has the prerogative to make appointments to fill any vacancies in its legislative positions. This means that Kohl-Welles will have a say in who succeeds her, as well as who succeeds Reuven Carlyle in the state House.

In each case, the Council will be selecting from a list of three names drawn up by the King County Democratic Central Committee (KCDCC).

Although the Washington State Constitution gives the responsibility of drawing up the list of names to the central committee, in practice, it will be actually done by a subset of the KCDCC, because state party rules require that the whole KCDCC defer to those of its members who actually live in the district.

A nominating caucus will therefore be called at the appropriate time by King County Democratic Chair Rich Erwin. At the present time, there are two hundred and five Democratic PCOs who are eligible to participate in that caucus. Additional PCOs may be appointed by the time the caucus is called. Only elected and appointed PCOs will have a vote; “acting” PCOs who have adopted a precinct will not have a vote.

Carlyle is a slam dunk for the Senate vacancy. The 36th’s PCOs will need to choose two individuals to appear on the list along with him, but they will most likely be people who have no intention of serving in the Legislature.

The real contest will be for Carlyle’s seat. The candidate who receives the most votes from the PCOs will be listed at the top of the list of three and will be a heavy favorite to get the appointment. However, the list must include multiple names, so three candidates will make it onto the final list to be presented to the Council.

The 36th is one of the most Democratic districts in the state, so whoever gets appointed will in all likelihood become a safe incumbent.

Campaigning for an appointment is not as resource intensive as running for office, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see additional contenders beyond the six individuals mentioned above step forward and throw their hats into the ring.

Judge Dean Lum finds Eyman’s I-1366 is beyond scope, but won’t remove it from ballot

This is a breaking news post.

In a written decision handed down moments ago, King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum has found that Tim Eyman’s I-1366 is indeed beyond the scope of the people’s initiative power… but has nevertheless declined to grant plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction blocking it from the ballot because, in his view, doing so might violate the defendants’ rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution.

Lum’s decision is neither a victory for the plaintiffs (led by Elections Director Sherril Huff and Auditor Mary Hall), nor the defendants, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, along with initiative sponsor Tim Eyman and his associates.

On the one hand, Judge Lum accepted and validated the plaintiffs’ argument that the initiative is beyond the scope, declaring:

The Court finds that the fundamental, stated and overriding purpose of 1-1366 is to amend the Constitution. Sponsors do not contest that the referenced 1-1366 “promotional material” for the “2/3- For Taxes Constitutional Amendment Initiative” was drafted not by some unnamed supporters, but by themselves.

The “promotional material” are not mere advertisements, but either fundraising letters from some of the defendants, or the actual page attached to the 1-1366 signature gathering document. The initiative’s text explicitly links the proposed constitutional amendment (with specific constitutional amendment language submitted with the initiative) to a reduction in the sales tax from 6.5% to 5.5%.Legislators would have no authority to propose changes to the constitutional amendment. The initiative’s sponsors have decided that already.

I-1366 appears to violate Article XXIII Constitutional process in at least three ways. First, the initiative proposes the constitutional amendment, rather than coming from the Senate or the House. The constitutional amendment’s text comes directly from the initiative with no possible changes by any legislator. The constitutional amendment process effectively bypasses representatives elected by the people.

Second, 1-1366 directs the legislature to submit the proposed amendment to a public vote without the requirement that it be passed by 2/3 of each independent house, thereby amending the constitution and the constitutional process.

Third, the initiative uses the threat of a large reduction in the sales tax (and large reduction in services to Washingtonians) to force legislators to engage in the physical act of “proposing” the constitutional amendment for the ballot, notwithstanding that some will forced to do so against their will and without any changes to the amendment. The purpose of the initiative is not to legislate, but to invoke the constitutional amendment process. Sponsors characterize the legislator’s proposal as a “choice”, but there is no choice here.

On the other hand, the judge agreed with the defendants that there are not sufficient grounds to issue a preliminary injunction blocking I-1366 from the ballot.

In order to obtain preliminary injunction, plaintiffs must establish (1) a clear legal or equitable right; (2) a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of that right; and (3) that the act complained of will result in actual and substantial injury… Whether this proposed injunction triggers First Amendment protections is not that clear, as our Supreme Court has neither squarely addressed the issue nor harmonized its reasoning in the Futurewise, Coppernoll, Philladelphia II and Maleng cases. Moreover, previous pre-election cases involving local initiatives are of limited precedential value on this issue, since the state initiative process is part of the state constitution itself.

The judge added:

Here, although the ultimate decision is obviously the Supreme Court’s, there is a substantial possibility that 1-1366 will be found to be invalid for exceeding the scope of the initiative process, and that voters will be voting on a measure which will never go in to effect. Plaintiffs have alluded to additional Constitutional and other substantive challenges to 1-1366 which would make it susceptible to post-election invalidation, including most prominently an alleged violation of the two subject rule. Nevertheless, the Coppernoll, Philadelphia II and Maleng cases require that the preliminary injunction be denied because it is not clear that it would not violate the First Amendment or Article I, Section 5.

Of course, on appeal, the Supreme Court could squarely decide the First Amendment issue prior to the election, but this trial court is not in a position to say that the law on this issue is clear and settled.

And so, therefore:

Although 1-1366 appears to exceed the scope of the initiative power , our Supreme Court has not clearly and squarely ruled on whether the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and/or Article I Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution provide additional protections against pre-election challenges even in circumstances where the initiative may itself be invalid. The Supreme Court may clarify this issue prior to the election, but this trial court cannot.

The Court cannot say at this time whether Plaintiffs’ actual and substantial injuries outweigh Defendants’ First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution or their rights under Article I, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution.

ORDER
Based on the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Memorandum Opinion, the Court hereby DENIES Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

With this ruling, Judge Lum is squarely putting the ball in the Supreme Court (couldn’t resist a pun). This case was always going to be appealed, and the judge’s memorandum opinion all but guarantees that the Court will have to take the case. There is an important question to be decided here. The trial court has found that I-1366 is beyond the scope, but wasn’t willing to block it from the ballot. That decision will have to be made by the Supreme Court.

Given that there is something for everyone to like and dislike in this decision, it stands to reason that all the parties involved will welcome an appeal. The Supreme Court will be asked to make a decision prior to September 4th, which the Secretary of State has identified as the drop-dead date for the purposes of ballot preparation.

We’ll have more analysis of this decision in the days to come. It’s quite the mixed bag. The judge’s findings are very welcome, but the verdict wasn’t what we were hoping for. Nevertheless, this case was always headed to the Supreme Court, and the plaintiffs can certainly be happy that Judge Lum validated their arguments.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you coverage of the oral arguments as well as analysis of the briefs that will be filed as part of the appeal.

Supreme Court fines state $100,000 a day for failure to comply with McCleary orders

This morning, the Washington State Supreme Court, in a landmark order that will turn heads and shoulders across the Evergreen State, ordered the state to begin paying a $100,000 fine for each day that it fails to adopt a plan for fully complying with Article IX, Section 1 of the state Constitution (“It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.“)

The Court also suggested that the Legislature go back into special session to work on the problem of school funding without delay, noting that legislators figured out how to raise billions of additional dollars for highway construction on a bipartisan basis only a few weeks ago. From the Court’s order, published today:

Given the gravity of the State’s ongoing violation of its constitutional obligation to amply provide for public education, and in light of the need for expeditious action, the time has come for the court to impose sanctions. A monetary sanction is appropriate to emphasize the cost to the children, indeed to all of the people of this state, for every day the State fails to adopt a plan for ‘full compliance with article IX, section 1.

At the same time, this sanction is less intrusive than other available options, including directing the means the State must use to come into compliance with the court’s order. Now, therefore, it is hereby

ORDERED:

Effective immediately, the State of Washington is assessed a remedial penalty of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per day until it adopts a complete plan for complying with article lX, section 1 by the 2018 school year.

The penalty shall be payable daily to be held in a segregated account for the benefit of basic education. Recognizing that legislative action complying with the court’s order can only occur in session, but further recognizing that the court has no authority to convene a special session, the court encourages the governor to aid in resolving this matter by calling a special session. Should the legislature hold a special session and during that session fully comply with the court’s order, the court. will vacate any penalties accruing during the session. Otherwise, penalties will continue to accrue until the State achieves compliance.

As it has since the constitutionality of Washington’s school funding system was first litigated in Seattle School District, the court assumes and expects that the other branches of government will comply in good faith with orders of the court issued pursuant to the court’s constitutional duties. Seattle Sch. Dist. 1 90 Wn.2d at 506’07. Our country has a proud tradition of having the executive branch aid in enforcing court orders vindicating constitutional rights.

$100,000 a day adds up to about $3 million a month.

We are about five months away from the 2016 regular session. Were the Legislature not to act until then, it would incur $15 million in court-imposed penalties.

The Legislature of this state has a long and grand history of dithering, procrastinating, and excuse-making. But the time for making excuses is over. The Supreme Court is fed up and tired of the Legislature’s inability to meet its own goals for complying with Article IX, Section 1 of the state Constitution. The Court’s unanimous decision to impose sanctions is warranted and appropriate.

It’s time for the Legislature to get back to work. Washington needs tax reform. It needs its schools fully funded. It is our paramount duty to provide for the education of our youth. We’re not meeting that obligation, and our kids are being robbed as a consequence. This situation must be remedied as quickly as possible.

Half-measures are not enough; the Legislature can and must do better.

When we get a response from Governor Inslee, Superintendent Dorn, and legislative leaders to this decision, we will post it.

Looming over all of this is Tim Eyman’s I-1366, which threatens to wipe out $8 billion in sales tax revenue over six years unless the Legislature votes to approve a constitutional amendment permanently locking in our state’s regressive tax system. I-1366 has been certified for the ballot, but is being challenged in court on scope grounds. The first hearing in the case will take place tomorrow morning, against the backdrop of this Supreme Court order in McCleary.

UPDATE: Governor Inslee’s response is as follows.

“Today’s order from the Supreme Court acknowledges that significant progress has been made toward meeting the state’s obligation to adequately fund basic education.”

“But everyone understood that even with those historic investments in education, our work would not be done.”

“The court today made it clear that bolder and more aggressive action is needed to support Washington’s students and their teachers. The detailed plan the court demands in order to fulfill our constitutional obligation will be more complex and expensive than the significant steps we’ve already taken.”

“I will talk today with Attorney General Ferguson, legislative leaders and others to fully analyze today’s court order.”

The governor did not discuss plans for a special session.

The Washington Education Association’s Kim Mead had this to say:

“WEA is pleased with the Court’s strong order to require the legislature to comply with the constitution, reminding them that it imposes only one paramount duty on the state: ample provision for education of all children. It’s clear the court agrees that our kids can’t wait for the legislature to act on its own.”

“I encourage the Governor and legislative leaders to provide the funding our kids need to succeed, now, not years from now.  Further, the court made it clear that the legislature fell far short on the issues of class sizes and educator compensation. Those were our two highest priorities during the previous legislative session. Now, perhaps, the state will step up to its duty to our students and educators.

“WEA stands ready to assist legislative leaders to assist legislators in completing a plan.”

We will post more reaction as we get it.

Connecticut’s Supreme Court puts an end to all executions in the Nutmeg State

This is a great victory for human rights that deserves to be celebrated:

After a sweeping two-year review, the state Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in Connecticut, saying the state’s death penalty no longer comports with evolved societal values and serves no valid purpose as punishment.

The 4-3 decision would remove 11 convicts from Connecticut’s death row and overturn the latest iteration of the state’s death penalty, a political compromise effective April 2012 that halted executions going forward but allowed death sentences to be imposed on the inmates already sentenced.

The majority decision, written by Justice Richard N. Palmer, found a host of flaws in the death penalty law, which banned “prospective” death sentences, those imposed after the effective date of the law. But the majority wrote that it chose to analyze capital punishment and impose abolition from a broad perspective.

Killing people as a punishment for the commission of a crime is barbaric, and we’re glad that death row in Connecticut is being shut down for good.

The Connecticut Supreme Court found that the death penalty is unconstitutional under the Nutmeg State’s own constitution, which means there aren’t grounds for an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. (It is a generally held principle of constitutional law that state constitutions may provide additional rights and liberties beyond what the U.S. Constitution provides, but they cannot provide less).

The decision leaves New Hampshire as the only state in New England where the death penalty remains in effect. With the exception of Alaska and Hawaii, no state west of the Rockies has abolished the death penalty, unless New Mexico is counted. We have work to do on that front here in the Pacific Northwest.

Governor Jay Inslee has declared a moratorium on the death penalty (to the consternation of many Republicans, who want the state to kill its death-row prisoners despite claiming to be “pro-life”), but a moratorium is not abolition.

There are currently nine inmates on death row in Washington, eleven in Idaho, and thirty-four in Oregon. Neighboring Montana only has two.

Across the United States, the total number stands at three thousand.

Yes, you read that correctly: Close to three thousand people have had death sentences pronounced upon them by the federal government or a state government and are waiting to be killed. This is the United States, the supposed beacon of freedom, liberty, and human rights, and we’ve got three thousand people sitting in prisons who have been condemned to death! How can we lecture other countries about human rights when we don’t practice what we preach ourselves?

It is worth noting that Washington and Idaho have each had one innocent person – yes, one innocent person – exonerated and freed from death row after it was proven they did not commit the crime for which they were to be killed.

The struggle for abolition must and will continue in this country.

If Nebraska can abolish the death penalty, as it recently did, surely we here in Washington and Oregon (and Idaho) can do it too. It won’t be easy, but it is a just and moral cause that we must rededicate ourselves to.

For more information:

Please accept our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery, President Carter!

Today, former President Jimmy Carter, who served as America’s thirty-ninth Commander-in-Chief shared some tough news: he’s been diagnosed with cancer  and will be spending the next few weeks undergoing treatment.

“Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body,” Carter said in a brief statement. “I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week.”

Carter, ninety, has a history of pancreatic cancer in his family.

“Michelle and I send our best wishes to President Carter for a fast and full recovery,” said President Barack Obama in a statement released by the White House.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Rosalynn and the entire Carter family as they face this challenge with the same grace and determination that they have shown so many times before,” the President added. “Jimmy, you’re as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you.”

The President also telephoned President Carter earlier today to express the same sentiment to him directly, the White House said.

“My thoughts and prayers are with President Carter and his family,” echoed former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, in a tweet signed “H” to signify it was written by her and not a member of her staff.

We join progressives around the country in wishing President Carter a full and speedy recovery. For many years, he has lent his voice to speak out on behalf of diplomacy and nonviolence. He is a great statesman and leader whose public service has extended well beyond his presidency. Recognized for his efforts with the Nobel Peace Prize, he has maintained an active life for a very long time. As a friend of NPI, Bill Phillips, said today, “We need him around for every year we can have.”

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