A few days ago, Governor Chris Gregoire let it be known that she intends to ask the courts to rule on the constitutionality of Tim Eyman’s I‑1053, which was challenged by a group of parents, teachers, and lawmakers in a lawsuit last spring. Gregoire is a defendant in the lawsuit (which is being defended by Rob McKenna’s office) but it’s no secret that the governor opposes I‑1053 and believes it to be unconstitutional.
Gregoire does not intend to join plaintiffs in formally asking that I‑1053 be declared unconstitutional, but she does intend to petition the courts actually take up the question and not punt on it, as they have in the past.
In response, the Seattle Times — which is owned by the Blethen family and controlled by Frank Blethen — has chosen to publish yet another intellectually dishonest editorial in support of I‑1053, whining that Gregoire’s courageous and justified course of action is “ill-chosen”. We at NPI disagree. The governor is well within her rights to ask that the courts resolve this important constitutional question. Nothing less than our survival as a republic is at stake.
After chiding the governor for choosing to stake out a position independent of Rob McKenna’s position, the Times goes on to concede that I‑1053 may indeed be unconstitutional… which indicates that whoever authored this unsigned editorial recognizes that our arguments against I‑1053 have merit.
In our view, it is not clear whether the two-thirds rule is permitted by the constitution. The judges would be making new law and could go either way.
Wrong. Our courts would not be making new law, because there is already a precedent… a precedent set in Alaska, where the Supreme Court ruled that a proposed initiative similar to I‑1053 was unconstitutional.
Alaska is not Washington, but state courts consider case law in other states to be relevant. Alaska’s Constitution is actually very similar to Washington’s, and in fact, some sections are almost identical.
We believe that if the courts actually consider whether I‑1053 is constitutional, they will declare it not to be. The author of this unsigned editorial apparently agrees… and fears such an outcome, because he or she goes on to write:
Why ask? When asked before, they dodged the question. Why not respect their answer?
Because their answer was a cop-out, that’s why.
The judiciary has no higher responsibility than defending the Constitution… as the Constitution itself says in Article IV, Section 28:
SECTION 28 OATH OF JUDGES. Every judge of the supreme court, and every judge of a superior court shall, before entering upon the duties of his office, take and subscribe an oath that he will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Washington, and will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of judge to the best of his ability, which oath shall be filed in the office of the secretary of state.
The courts have a duty to protect our democracy from unconstitutional statutes like I‑1053. The Constitution is our highest law; it may not be amended or circumvented by statute. The plaintiffs in the suit against I‑1053 are simply asking that Washington’s courts fulfill their constitutional duty to uphold our Constitution.
Back to the Times’ editorial:
If I‑1053 is struck down, there will be a public drive to put the two-thirds rule in the constitution, so that it is no longer time-limited. The drive will be led by the Republicans. Is that what Gregoire wants?
If there is such a drive by Republicans, it will fail… because amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote and it’s incredibly difficult to get two-thirds of each house of the Legislature to agree on anything!
Such a standard makes sense for amending our Constitution — it’s our highest law.
But Article II, Section 22 of the Constitution says bills shall pass by majority vote. Article II does not say supermajority vote…it says majority vote.
As in, fifty percent plus one. No more, no less.
Our founders knew when it was appropriate to require supermajorities; the Constitution spells out where and when a supermajority vote is required for something. Democracy cannot work unless minority rights and majority rule are in balance. That is why our founders gave us a Legislature that operates on majority rule and a Constitution that protects minority rights by requiring amendments to pass by a two-thirds vote of each house, plus a vote of the people.
Tim Eyman’s I‑960 and I‑1053 (like I‑601 before them) have disrupted this balance, and our our plan of government has been undermined as a result… along with our quality of life. Bizarrely, the Times sees fit to defend Eyman’s unconstitutional, undemocratic initiative while simultaneously complaining that vital services like education are not being properly funded.
Frank Blethen (who we understand often micromanages his editorial board) doesn’t appear to comprehend that Eyman’s intent with I‑1053 is to force state government — including our public schools and universities — to be dismantled, cut by cut. Perhaps some of his editorial writers get what Eyman’s real agenda is. But they have not spoken out against I‑1053 under their own names.
Blethen and his editorial writers should know this: As long as I‑1053 remains in place — in violation of Article II, Section 22, and arguably in violation of Article IX, Section 1 and Article VII, Section 1 — our public schools and universities will remain underfunded. Without new revenue, legislators have no way of protecting education against further cuts, let alone reverse the damage that has already been caused by years of dithering and shortsighted decisions.
All of Tim Eyman’s initiatives hew to the anti-common wealth philosophy that Grover Norquist (Eyman’s role model) so memorably expressed a few years ago. Norquist said: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
This is the philosophy the Times is supporting by defending I‑1053.