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

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time for I-960 to be challenged in court

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Olympia correspondent, Chris McGann, has an article in tomorrow's newspaper about the negative effects Tim Eyman's Initiative 960 is having on the legislative process:
The news releases required under the measure citing proposed new taxes or fees in legislation are seen as cheap fodder for any political candidate who takes on an incumbent -- and they threaten to derail plans as varied as organizing radiology assistants to taxing carbon industries.

"It is getting in the way of open consideration of ideas," said Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, who sponsored a bill that would tax greenhouse gas emissions. "It is getting in the way of taking care of the business of our state."


"You would not believe the vitriol that has come in on my telephone today," said Chase, who added lawmakers will be reluctant to have their names associated with any bill that would trigger I-960 notification.

Most of the outrage was based on the estimated taxpayer price tag for the bill [HB 2420], which is misleading, she said.

"I'm just now studying how they [OFM] came up with that figure because right now, we don't have a price for carbon," she said. "So it is ridiculous to put this out here when there are so many assumptions. It dampens down the legislative discussion that we need to have to come up with good legislation.
The whole point of Eyman's "notification" gimmick was and is to provide Republican candidates (who portray themselves as against taxes and government in general) and his own vocal but small band of supporters with ready-made attacks against Democratic lawmakers. These Initiative 960 mandated releases are gift wrapped for the right wing on the public's dime.

Look at what happened to Representative Chase. She sponsored a bold proposal to address the climate crisis, and it is being trashed by people who have signed up for the Office of Financial Management's list simply so they can scream at every lawmaker who proposes something that costs money.

Pooling our money together into a common wealth to allow us to collectively improve our lives and our communities...what a horrifying thought.

Eyman, who has explicitly urged his followers to sign up for the notification system, has already accused the Office of Financial Management (and Governor Gregoire) of nefariously trying to make it hard for citizens to subscribe.

As usual, his accusation is wholly without merit. Perhaps the subscription process (which is opt-in, of course) could be more user friendly, but that's a limitation of the listserv software the state government uses.

As an aside to readers... if you want to thank lawmakers who have the courage to sponsor legislation that they know will have a price tag slapped on it like a big discount sticker, we urge you to subscribe yourself to the notification list.

Because the legislative session has just started, the unconstitutional two thirds supermajority requirement for raising revenue has not yet been tested yet, but it undoubtedly will be. As Representative Lynn Kessler notes:
Although House Democrats would be cautious of bills with new fees, they won't be able to completely avoid them.

"There will be some that we need," she said.

Kessler said OFM has already flagged six bills -- two from the Republicans and four from the Democrats -- as those subject to the I-960 requirements.

She said at this stage it seems counterproductive. For example, a group of radiologist assistants wants legislative authorization to form a professional board or commission, and, like similar groups, the costs would be paid for by the members of the group.

But even though the group is asking for something it intends to pay for itself, the bill may stall out of concern about the extra attention it would put on its sponsors and those who vote for it.
Back in the autumn of 2007, we said that this was the kind of paralysis Initiative 960 would create... and we are now being proved correct.

Is it any surprise that Tim Eyman thinks this situation is just super?

Initiative 960 was never about transparency or accountability - it was and remains an undemocratic scheme to cripple government (and ensnare Democrats).

It is time for this pile of garbage to be hauled into court and challenged.

Like many of Tim Eyman's previous measures, Initiative 960 is in direct conflict with the supreme law of our land - the Washington State Constitution, which established our state government and reaffirmed the American tradition of majority rule with minority rights. In our series last fall (Unconstitutional, Unfair, Unsound) we explained why Initiative 960 is bad law, and therefore vulnerable to legal challenge.
Here's an excerpt from Part One:
The supreme law of our state defines all the instances where supermajorities are required for the Legislature to take action. On all other occasions, the Constitution says that majority rule will prevail. Adding or subtracting exceptions in the Constitution may only be done through amendment.


State courts in Alaska have interpreted the virtually identical language about majority votes in their Constitution to be both a floor and a ceiling, and it can be reasonably expected that courts here will do the same.

Floor and ceiling means that "majority" is an absolute definition: no bills can pass through the Legislature without a majority; while anything greater than a simple majority cannot be required to pass bills.

The language in I-960 calls for a two thirds minimum "yea" vote of all lawmakers to pass revenue increases; the state Constitution says such legislation may move out of the statehouse with only a simple majority.
A lawsuit taking aim at Initiative 960's constitutionality is not a matter of if but when. Thankfully, the demise of Initiative 960 at the hands of the state Supreme Court would be final. It is unconstitutionally rotten to its core, and the Legislature wouldn't be able to reinstate it even if it wanted to. How distressing for Tim Eyman & Co.

The narrow majority of voters that approved Initiative 960 may not have realized what they were really voting for, but fortunately, our democracy comes with a self cleansing mechanism: the power of judicial review.


Blogger markq said...

It's not just the two thirds supermajority requirement for revenue bills that is unconstitutional, I-960 has at least two, perhaps three, different subjects.

January 17, 2008 3:36 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

"Pooling our money together into a common wealth to allow us to collectively improve our lives and our communities...what a horrifying thought."

No part of this law prohibits lawmakers from spending money. It just raises the bar, if they want to spend our money, its going to be transparent, and people are going to have the ability to comment on the proposed law. How is this bad?

It puts the burden of proof on the lawmakers, they will have to prove to us that the reasons for spending our money are valid.

"It is getting in the way of open consideration of ideas," said Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, who sponsored a bill that would tax greenhouse gas emissions. "It is getting in the way of taking care of the business of our state."

I'm glad to hear that open and public discourse on the issue of how we tax ourselves, is getting in the way of the lawmakers.

January 17, 2008 12:51 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Umm, Andrew, in your frothing blather you seem to have forgotten that your idea of "Pooling our money together into a common wealth to allow us to collectively improve our lives and our communities" comes at the point of a gun.

If I refuse to pay for your global warming death cult "ideals" and "solutions" (which always seem to restrict personal freedoms, btw) then they send people to either confiscate my property or haul me off to jail/prison.

I happen to remember youse guyz supporting Cindy Sheehan's refusal to pay taxes because of her opposition to military action in Iraq. Why should I be made to pay for these proposals?

The "discussion" is not over on the topic of "global warming" or "climate change" or whatever you all are calling it this week. Anyone who refuses to allow debate on any topic is either afraid of the opposing side's arguments or just plain fascistic in their beliefs.

Calling people "deniers" and "criminals" because of their beliefs on this subject don't help your case or your arguments, and in fact only serves to incite hatred and violence against those who believe differently.

January 18, 2008 12:50 AM  

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