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.

Who­ev­er wrote this edi­to­r­i­al for the Times should be aware of this case law, because we went over it in a let­ter to the edi­tor that they pub­lished back in June 2011.

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “Frank Blethen, self-proclaimed champion of higher education, doesn’t want Chris Gregoire intervening in lawsuit against I‑1053”

  1. Arti­cle IV Sec­tion 4 of the Con­sti­tu­tion OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

    “The Unit­ed States shall guar­an­tee to every State in this Union a Repub­li­can Form of Government”

    There is not one iota of wig­gle-room in this sec­tion. ALL state laws and state con­sti­tu­tions autho­riz­ing leg­is­la­tion by direct vote are inar­guably in direct vio­la­tion of IV/4 and are there­fore invalid.

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