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Thursday, May 17, 2007

BREAKING: Lawsuit filed to invalidate I-960

Two allies of NPI and Permanent Defense are filing suit in King County Superior Court seeking an injunction that blocks Tim Eyman's I-960 from going on this November's ballot, according to court documents.

The intent of Initiative 960 is to undermine representative democracy by forcing the Legislature to operate under un-American rules. Initiative 960 would turn our cherished tradition of "majority rules with minority rights" on its head by requiring two thirds supermajority approval for any increase in revenue.

Futurewise and SEIU Local 775, both progressive organizations, are asking for an order that prevents the Secretary of State from spending any public funds processing I-960 or treating it as a valid initiative at all.
"We’re confident I-960 is unconstitutional. We're hoping the courts will block it before taxpayer money is wasted putting a legally invalid measure on the ballot," explained Keith Scully, Futurewise’s Legal Director. "For someone claiming to be worried about taxpayers, Eyman sure is wasting our money with this initiative."
The suit does not simply challenge the constitutionality of Initiative 960 - normally a matter that courts would wait to rule on until after passage - but contends that the measure exceeds the scope of the initiative process altogether, which is a distinctly separate issue.

The state Supreme Court noted in Coppernoll v. Reed that a reviewing court may enjoin such a measure prior to an election. An initiative or referendum is outside the scope of the process, for example, if it attempts to amend or circumvent the Constitution, as the Court established in the 2000 case Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 v. State.

Initiative 960 appears to be in conflict with two sections of the Constitution. First, Article II, Section 1(b) states:
(b) Referendum. The second power reserved by the people is the referendum, and it may be ordered on any act, bill, law, or any part thereof passed by the legislature, except such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions, either by petition signed by the required percentage of the legal voters, or by the legislature as other bills are enacted
There is no provision in this section for the system of non-binding referenda that I-960 attempts to set up. Additionally, acts raising revenue for the State are exempted as emphasized above.

Second, Article II, Section 22 clearly states that bills require a vote of the majority to become law - as opposed to approval by a minority.
SECTION 22. PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.
Finally, Article XXIII concerns amendments to the Constitution:
SECTION 1 HOW MADE. Any amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be proposed in either branch of the legislature; and if the same shall be agreed to by two-thirds of the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be entered on their journals, with the ayes and noes thereon, and be submitted to the qualified electors of the state for their approval, at the next general election; and if the people approve and ratify such amendment or amendments, by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the same shall become part of this Constitution, and proclamation thereof shall be made by the governor: Provided, That if more than one amendment be submitted, they shall be submitted in such a manner that the people may vote for or against such amendments separately [...]
The remaining sections of Article XXIII describe the process for setting up conventions to amend the Constitution.

Amendments require supermajority approval in the Legislature - the people's representatives (this is to protect minority rights, because the Constitution is so sacred) - and majority approval by the people.

It is plainly evident from Article XXIII that the Constitution cannot simply be amended by statute - whether that be through a bill or an initiative. And the Supreme Court has made clear that any ballot measure that purports to amend the Constitution is outside the scope of the initiative process.

The matter is now before the Superior Court, which we hope will grant Futurewise and SEIU 775 the injunctive and declaratory relief they seek.

POSTSCRIPT: David has a great perspective on this at HorsesAss.

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