NO on Tim Eyman's I-1366
NO on Tim Eyman's I-1366: Our Kids Shouldn't be Hostages to Bad Politics

Last week, with­in the span of twen­ty-four hours, Tim Eyman’s odi­ous I‑1366 received its fis­cal impact state­ment from the Office of Finan­cial Man­age­ment, was cer­ti­fied for the bal­lot by Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman, and then was sub­ject­ed to a legal chal­lenge by King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor Sher­ril Huff, Thurston Coun­ty Audi­tor Mary Hall, and oth­er dis­tin­guished plain­tiffs who don’t think I‑1366 should be on the bal­lot because it exceeds the scope of the peo­ple’s ini­tia­tive power.

These devel­op­ments have pre­dictably led to a fresh round of media cov­er­age of I‑1366. The Seat­tle Times’ Jim Brun­ner, who attend­ed the press con­fer­ence announc­ing the law­suit, wrote his sec­ond arti­cle in as many days about I‑1366. John Stang also went to the press con­fer­ence and filed a report for Crosscut.

The next day, KING5 invit­ed Tim Eyman on its morn­ing news­cast to “explain” I‑1366 (with­out, as far as we know, extend­ing a sim­i­lar invi­ta­tion to any­one opposed to I‑1366), while the Seat­tle Times Com­pa­ny-owned Wal­la-Wal­la Union Bul­letin pub­lished an edi­to­r­i­al par­rot­ing Eyman’s argu­ments in oppo­si­tion to the law­suit, which Eyman will no doubt use as fod­der for a fundrais­ing email soon.

On Sun­day, the Spokesman-Review’s Jim Cam­den dis­cussed the ini­tia­tive in a brief blog post titled “This seems famil­iar.” And this morn­ing, The Columbian pub­lished a an edi­to­r­i­al remark­ably sim­i­lar to that of the Union Bul­letin’s, echo­ing and ampli­fy­ing Eyman’s decep­tive, mis­lead­ing Let the vot­ers decide ral­ly­ing cry.

This body of report­ing and com­men­tary unfor­tu­nate­ly shares a seri­ous short­com­ing: it’s lack­ing in depth. To put it anoth­er way, it does­n’t go beyond what I’ll call the sound bite lev­el. The con­text that peo­ple need in order to under­stand what I‑1366 and the law­suit against it are real­ly about is missing.

As if that weren’t bad enough, what sev­er­al media out­lets have pro­vid­ed in the way of con­text con­tains misrepresentations.

I’m going to attempt to cor­rect the record, as best I can, with this post. I pre­vi­ous­ly authored a post last week which breaks down (in detail!) the legal chal­lenge against I‑1366. I high­ly rec­om­mend read­ing that if you haven’t already.

While I will be touch­ing on some of the same points again here, you’ll be bet­ter pre­pared to fol­low along if you’ve read that post.

Let me begin with some his­to­ry. Wash­ing­ton has oper­at­ed, since state­hood, under a plan of gov­ern­ment drawn up by sev­en­ty-five men. We know this plan of gov­ern­ment as the Con­sti­tu­tion of the State of Wash­ing­ton.

Accord­ing to His­to­ryLink, the con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ven­tion held one hun­dred and twen­ty-six sum­mers ago includ­ed “21 lawyers, 13 farm­ers, 6 mer­chants, 6 doc­tors, 5 bankers, 4 cat­tle­men, 3 teach­ers, 2 real-estate agents, 2 edi­tors, 2 hop farm­ers, 2 log­gers, 2 lum­ber­men, 1 min­is­ter, 1 sur­vey­or, 1 fish­er­man, and 1 min­ing engi­neer.” Most of these men were Repub­li­cans; a small­er num­ber were Democrats.

These Framers used the U.S. and oth­er state con­sti­tu­tions as a mod­el for writ­ing Wash­ing­ton’s. That’s how we end­ed up with a state gov­ern­ment con­sist­ing of a bicam­er­al Leg­is­la­ture (House and Sen­ate), an exec­u­tive depart­ment (head­ed by an inde­pen­dent­ly elect­ed gov­er­nor) and a judi­cia­ry (vest­ed prin­ci­pal­ly in a Supreme Court, Supe­ri­or Courts, and also jus­tices of the peace). 

While our state gov­ern­ment is dif­fer­ent in a num­ber of ways from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, its struc­ture is the same. We have a leg­isla­tive branch charged with mak­ing laws, an exec­u­tive branch to enforce laws, and a judi­cial branch to inter­pret laws. This sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers is delib­er­ate. The idea is that each branch will keep the oth­ers in line through a sys­tem of checks and balances.

When Wash­ing­ton came into being as a state, our coun­try was going through a peri­od that has since become known as the Gild­ed Age. Pol­i­tics in the Gild­ed Age was dom­i­nat­ed by pow­er­ful indus­tri­al inter­ests, par­tic­u­lar­ly the rail­roads, who used their mon­ey to influ­ence leg­isla­tive pro­ceed­ings at the state and fed­er­al level.

With­in a few years of state­hood, Pro­gres­sive reform­ers had formed a move­ment here to fight polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion. Orga­ni­za­tions like the Direct Leg­is­la­tion League cam­paigned for an amend­ment to Wash­ing­ton’s Con­sti­tu­tion to allow the peo­ple to pro­pose laws direct­ly as well as to vote on laws passed by the Leg­is­la­ture. Leg­is­la­tion call­ing for such an amend­ment was intro­duced as ear­ly as 1895.

Then, as now, Wash­ing­ton’s Con­sti­tu­tion was not easy to change. Arti­cle XXIII stip­u­lates that amend­ments to Wash­ing­ton’s Con­sti­tu­tion must orig­i­nate in the Leg­is­la­ture and receive a two-thirds vote of each house before being placed on the bal­lot for rat­i­fi­ca­tion. Rat­i­fi­ca­tion requires only a major­i­ty vote of the people.

By 1911, the reform­ers had suc­ceed­ed in amass­ing the votes required for two amend­ments to add the ini­tia­tive, ref­er­en­dum, and recall to the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion. Impor­tant­ly, their amend­ments left the pow­er to pro­pose future con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments sole­ly in the hands of the Legislature.

At the 1912 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion (which pit­ted Theodore Roo­sevelt against William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wil­son), the amend­ments (num­bered 7 and 8) went before the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton and was approved. Thus began Wash­ing­ton’s tra­di­tion of direct democ­ra­cy, which con­tin­ues today.

By the mid-1970s, Wash­ing­ton ranked behind only Ore­gon, North Dako­ta, and Cal­i­for­nia in ini­tia­tive activ­i­ty (mea­sured as the total num­ber of ini­tia­tives appear­ing on the bal­lot), accord­ing to a 1974 analy­sis by the UW’s Hugh Bone.

In more recent times, Grover Norquist wannabe Tim Eyman has abused Wash­ing­ton’s ini­tia­tive process to force near-annu­al votes on schemes pur­pose­ly intend­ed to shred our com­mon wealth and wreck our government.

His lat­est is I‑1366, which would cut state sales tax rev­enue by $8 bil­lion over six years (there­by tak­ing Wash­ing­ton’s youth as hostages, for the sales tax funds our schools) unless the Leg­is­la­ture refers to the peo­ple an amend­ment to per­ma­nent­ly require a two-thirds vote to raise or recov­er any state revenue.

Con­sti­tu­tion­al defects are a com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tic of Eyman ini­tia­tives. Most of the schemes that Eyman has got­ten past the vot­ers have been chal­lenged in post-elec­tion lit­i­ga­tion as a con­se­quence of hav­ing been poor­ly drafted.

Three have been struck down in their entire­ty by the state Supreme Court (I‑695, I‑722, I‑747), while four more have been par­tial­ly inval­i­dat­ed (I‑776, I‑960, I‑1053, I‑1185). With the excep­tion of I‑900 in 2005, all the oth­er ini­tia­tives that Eyman has pro­posed have either failed to make the bal­lot or have been reject­ed by voters.

Although oth­er states (such as Alas­ka) have an estab­lished process for sub­ject­ing pro­posed ini­tia­tives to a con­sti­tu­tion­al and legal review pri­or to allow­ing them to pro­ceed to the sig­na­ture gath­er­ing stage, Wash­ing­ton does not. This has left the ini­tia­tive process open to abuse and mis­chief by the likes of Eyman.

Tak­ing the view that a pro­posed ini­tia­tive is not a law, just as a bill in the Leg­is­la­ture is not a law pri­or to receiv­ing a vote in each house and the gov­er­nor’s sig­na­ture (or, alter­na­tive­ly, an over­ride of the gov­er­nor’s veto), Wash­ing­ton’s judi­cia­ry has twice declined in the past ten years to set aside an ini­tia­tive pri­or to an election.

In Cop­per­noll v. Reed (2005), con­cern­ing a chal­lenge to I‑330 which the Supreme Court dis­missed, the Court not­ed, “It has been a long­stand­ing rule of our jurispru­dence that we refrain from inquir­ing into the valid­i­ty of a pro­posed law, includ­ing an ini­tia­tive or ref­er­en­dum, before it has been enacted.”

In Future­wise v. Reed (2007), con­cern­ing Tim Eyman’s I‑960, the Supreme Court added, “Such review, if engaged in, would involve the court in ren­der­ing advi­so­ry opin­ions, would vio­late ripeness require­ments, would under­mine the pol­i­cy of avoid­ing unnec­es­sary con­sti­tu­tion­al ques­tions, and would con­sti­tute unwar­rant­ed judi­cial med­dling with the leg­isla­tive process.”

Tim Eyman, not sur­pris­ing­ly, has cit­ed both of these rul­ings in pre­dict­ing that the legal chal­lenge to I‑1366 will be unsuccessful.

How­ev­er, in both Cop­per­noll and Future­wise, the Court acknowl­edged that while it will not con­sid­er whether an ini­tia­tive is con­sti­tu­tion­al pri­or to an elec­tion, it is will­ing to con­sid­er whether an ini­tia­tive is beyond the scope of the peo­ple’s ini­tia­tive pow­er, as it did in Philadel­phia II v. Gre­goire (decid­ed in 1996).

In Philadel­phia II, the Supreme Court squashed an ini­tia­tive that attempt­ed to cre­ate an ini­tia­tive process at the fed­er­al lev­el because it was beyond the scope of the ini­tia­tive pow­er. From the Court’s decision:

Gen­er­al­ly, courts are reluc­tant to rule on the valid­i­ty of an ini­tia­tive before its adop­tion by the peo­ple. This reluc­tance stems from our desire not to inter­fere in the elec­toral process or give advi­so­ry opin­ions. Seat­tle Bldg. & Con­str. Trades Coun­cil v. City of Seat­tle, 94 Wash.2d 740, 746, 620 P.2d 82 (1980).

How­ev­er, an estab­lished excep­tion to this rule in Wash­ing­ton is that a court will review a pro­posed ini­tia­tive to deter­mine if it is beyond the scope of the ini­tia­tive power.

The rea­son­ing behind the excep­tion was stat­ed as follows:

A fun­da­men­tal lim­it on the ini­tia­tive pow­er inheres in its nature as a leg­isla­tive func­tion reserved to the peo­ple… It is clear from the con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­vi­sion that the ini­tia­tive process, as a means by which the peo­ple can exer­cise direct­ly the leg­isla­tive author­i­ty to enact bills and laws, is lim­it­ed in scope to sub­ject mat­ter which is leg­isla­tive in nature.

The Court goes on to say:

The idea that courts can review pro­posed ini­tia­tives to deter­mine whether they are autho­rized by arti­cle II, sec­tion 1, of the state con­sti­tu­tion is near­ly as old as the amend­ment itself. See State ex rel. Berry v. Supe­ri­or Court, 92 Wash. 16, 159 P. 92 (1916) (enjoin­ing print­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion of pro­posed ini­tia­tive mea­sure due to pre­am­ble being improp­er argu­ment and not leg­isla­tive in character).

Rec­og­niz­ing the impor­tance of the ini­tia­tive pow­er, how­ev­er, this court has allowed for pre-elec­tion review only in rare cir­cum­stances, con­sis­tent­ly mak­ing the dis­tinc­tion that while a court may decide whether the ini­tia­tive is autho­rized by arti­cle II, sec­tion 1, of the state con­sti­tu­tion, it may not rule on the con­sti­tu­tion­al valid­i­ty of a pro­posed ini­tia­tive. Seat­tle Bldg. & Con­str. Trades Coun­cil, 94 Wash.2d at 745–46, 620 P.2d 82. We adhere to that dis­tinc­tion and review the Philadel­phia II ini­tia­tive only to deter­mine whether it is autho­rized by arti­cle II, sec­tion 1, of the state constitution.

Empha­sis is mine.

If you read the com­plaint filed by the plain­tiffs against I‑1366 in King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court, you’ll notice that it seeks to have I‑1366 removed from the bal­lot  on the same grounds that Philadel­phia II was blocked.

The pow­er to invoke the con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment process is not part of the Arti­cle II leg­isla­tive power.

Because the fun­da­men­tal and over­rid­ing pur­pose of I‑1366 is to invoke the con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment process, it is not autho­rized by Arti­cle II, sec 1.

Under Arti­cle II, sec 1, only “bills and laws” may be pro­posed by the peo­ple, not con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments, which may only be pro­posed in either house of the legislature.

I‑1366 is beyond the scope of the leg­isla­tive pow­er reserved to the peo­ple and should not be placed on the ballot.

As before, empha­sis is mine.

Sad­ly, the edi­to­r­i­al boards of the Wal­la Wal­la Union-Bul­letin and The Columbian don’t seem to under­stand that the plain­tiffs in Huff v. Wyman aren’t ask­ing the Supreme Court to con­duct a review for con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty, but rather are ask­ing for a scope review. The Court has already made it pret­ty clear it won’t oblige a request for the for­mer, but it will hear out a request for the latter.

Con­sid­er these mis­lead­ing open­ing para­graphs from the Bul­let­in’s editorial:

Is Tim Eyman’s lat­est ini­tia­tive, which seeks to rein­state a super­ma­jor­i­ty vote by the Leg­is­la­ture to raise tax­es, constitutional?

That’s for the courts to decide. But that deci­sion should be made after the vot­ers have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to approve or reject the mea­sure that qual­i­fied for the Novem­ber bal­lot on Wednesday.

And these mis­lead­ing clos­ing para­graphs from The Columbian’s edi­to­r­i­al:

I‑1366 might or might not vio­late the require­ment that a mea­sure be lim­it­ed to one sub­ject mat­ter; that will be for the courts to decide if the ini­tia­tive remains on the bal­lot and is approved by vot­ers. But first, vot­ers should be allowed to decide. “Ulti­mate­ly, the politi­cians’ law­suit that seeks to pre­vent the peo­ple from vot­ing may have less to do with Ini­tia­tive 1366 than it does the right of the peo­ple to dis­cuss, debate, and vote on the issues con­tained in it,” Eyman said.

Let the don­ny­brook begin.

You’d think that before opin­ing on this law­suit, the peo­ple who wrote these edi­to­ri­als would at least take the trou­ble to read it and under­stand it.

I was also per­plexed to read this pas­sage from Jim Cam­den of the Spokesman-Review’s brief recap of the devel­op­ments sur­round­ing I‑1366:

With­in 24 hours of the peti­tion sig­na­tures being cer­ti­fied, oppo­nents were ask­ing a court to keep the ini­tia­tive off the bal­lot. This is a com­mon, but rarely suc­cess­ful, strat­e­gy because the Supreme Court usu­al­ly declines to rule on the legal­i­ty of an ini­tia­tive unless vot­ers pass it. Until that hap­pens, it is what Joey Trib­biani of “Friends” used to call a “moo point”, that is, it’s like a cow’s opin­ion; it doesn’t matter.

It is actu­al­ly not com­mon for statewide ini­tia­tives to be chal­lenged in court after being cer­ti­fied for the bal­lot. At the local lev­el, we’ve seen ini­tia­tives chal­lenged fre­quent­ly in court at all stages, includ­ing on scope grounds.

But at the state lev­el, there sim­ply isn’t much case law per­tain­ing to pre­elec­tion review of ini­tia­tives. Chal­lenges are rarely filed. The few note­wor­thy cas­es that have been lit­i­gat­ed are cit­ed above (Philadel­phia II, Cop­per­noll, Future­wise).

Again, this law­suit is not about whether I‑1366 has con­sti­tu­tion­al defects. That is indeed a ques­tion for anoth­er day. This law­suit is about whether I‑1366 takes the form that an ini­tia­tive should. The plain­tiffs say I‑1366 goes beyond what an ini­tia­tive is allowed to be — that it exceeds the scope of the ini­tia­tive power.

We agree. Read the text of I‑1366, and the first thing you’ll see is that it con­tains a head­ing which declares it to be a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment. It has also been adver­tised by Eyman as such. And its pro­vi­sions are obvi­ous­ly meant to coerce the Leg­is­la­ture into exer­cis­ing its pre­rog­a­tive to pro­pose con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments by threat­en­ing a bru­tal con­se­quence if the Leg­is­la­ture does not pro­pose a par­tic­u­lar amend­ment by a par­tic­u­lar date. That’s why we call it a hostage-tak­ing scheme.

The rea­son this scope chal­lenge is being brought now is because it is jus­ti­cia­ble now. The ques­tion of whether I‑1366 is beyond the scope of the ini­tia­tive pow­er is moot if it goes to vot­ers. For that mat­ter, the ques­tion of whether I‑1366 is con­sti­tu­tion­al or not is also moot if it is beyond the scope of the ini­tia­tive power.

The courts should ignore these illog­i­cal edi­to­ri­als, take up this thought­ful­ly-pre­pared com­plaint, and con­sid­er it on the mer­its. Tim Eyman sim­ply can­not be allowed to con­tin­ue abus­ing Wash­ing­ton’s ini­tia­tive process with­out being challenged.

Eyman also should not be allowed to go on mis­rep­re­sent­ing the elec­toral his­to­ry that pre­cedes I‑1366, as he did in the inter­view record­ed with KING5’s Mark Wright on Fri­day, and that has unfor­tu­nate­ly found its way into the report­ing of John Stang, Jim Brun­ner, and KOMO’s Car­leen Johnson.

Eyman is fond of say­ing that vot­ers have vot­ed “five times” to require a two-thirds vote of the Leg­is­la­ture to raise or recov­er rev­enue, and he has repeat­ed this so often and inces­sant­ly that the media now regret­tably report it as fact.

From Brun­ner’s Wednes­day sto­ry on I‑1366:

The super­ma­jor­i­ty-for-tax­es con­cept con­tained in I‑1366 has been endorsed by Wash­ing­ton vot­ers in five pre­vi­ous ini­tia­tive votes. But the state Supreme Court struck it down as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al in 2013.

Stang’s sto­ry on I‑1366 the fol­low­ing day:

In the past, Wash­ing­ton vot­ers passed five straight ini­tia­tives sup­port­ing the two-thirds major­i­ty thresh­old, but did not address the state con­sti­tu­tion. In 2013, the Wash­ing­ton Supreme Court found that the two-thirds major­i­ty thresh­old is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, prompt­ing Eyman to look for ways to amend the constitution.

And the tran­script of John­son’s sto­ry on I‑1366, also that day:

Wash­ing­ton vot­ers have FIVE times approved the super-major­i­ty for tax­es mea­sure, but the state Supreme Court struck it down as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al in 2013 say­ing an amend­ment was the only way to make that happen.

Here are sev­er­al vital facts miss­ing from the sto­ries above:

  • There have been four ini­tia­tives, not five, adopt­ed by vot­ers that sub­vert­ed Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22 of our Con­sti­tu­tion by unde­mo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly requir­ing a two-thirds vote to raise rev­enue: I‑601 (1993), I‑960 (2007), I‑1053 (2010) and I‑1185 (2012). There was no fifth initiative.
  • I‑601 (spon­sored by Lin­da Smith) and I‑960 (first of Eyman’s I‑601 clones) passed with nar­row mar­gins in odd-num­bered elec­tion years in which turnout was sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­er than the pre­ced­ing and suc­ceed­ing years. (In the KING5 inter­view record­ed Fri­day, Eyman referred to I‑601 as hav­ing passed “over­whelm­ing­ly”. This is false. A yes vote of 51.2% is not overwhelming.)
  • I‑1053 and I‑1185 passed with large mar­gins in even-num­bered years, but, unlike I‑601 and I‑960, were not fought by effec­tive NO campaigns.
  • At the same time that I‑601 was nar­row­ly adopt­ed in 1993, a sis­ter ini­tia­tive that made I‑601 look less dra­con­ian (I‑602, requir­ing a three-fourths vote to raise rev­enue) was being over­whelm­ing­ly defeat­ed by voters.
  • At the same time that I‑960 was nar­row­ly adopt­ed in 2007, a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment low­er­ing the thresh­old for pas­sage of school levies from three-fifths to a major­i­ty was also being nar­row­ly adopt­ed (HJR 4204).
  • Eyman nev­er talks about these votes because they con­tra­dict his false nar­ra­tive about Wash­ing­ton vot­ers hav­ing con­sis­tent­ly vot­ed to make it hard­er to raise tax­es. In real­i­ty, the elec­toral his­to­ry is mixed.

If there was no fifth ini­tia­tive, where does the notion of five votes come from? I addressed this in a post near­ly three years ago that I wrote in response to a sim­i­lar error in a Seat­tle Times arti­cle writ­ten by Andrew Gar­ber.

Be warned: this is a long excerpt.

Tim Eyman and his friends at the Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter have long claimed that in addi­tion to the afore­men­tioned mea­sures, there was anoth­er occa­sion (in 1998) where Wash­ing­to­ni­ans vot­ed for a mea­sure to impose the two-thirds require­ment. Eyman and Com­pa­ny have done such a good job repeat­ing this that law­mak­ers and reporters have actu­al­ly start­ed to believe that I‑1185 is the fifth ini­tia­tive on this sub­ject, instead of the fourth. But that’s not the case.

As we can see from look­ing at the index of bal­lot mea­sures for 1998, there was no such mea­sure. What we do see are statewide ini­tia­tives per­tain­ing to the min­i­mum wage, med­ical mar­i­jua­na, abor­tion, and affir­ma­tive action… along with a statewide ref­er­en­dum on trans­porta­tion funding.

It’s this ref­er­en­dum, R‑49, that Eyman and the Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter claim is the fourth vote (exclud­ing I‑1185).

They jus­ti­fy their claim by cit­ing the fol­low­ing lan­guage, which is buried in the referendum’s text:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 14. A new sec­tion is added to chap­ter 43.135 RCW to read as follows:
(1) Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure No. 601 (chap­ter 43.135 RCW, as amend­ed by chap­ter…, Laws of 1998 (this act) and the amenda­to­ry changes enact­ed by sec­tion 6, chap­ter 2, Laws of 1994) is here­by reen­act­ed and reaf­firmed. The leg­is­la­ture also adopts this act to con­tin­ue the gen­er­al fund rev­enue and expen­di­ture lim­i­ta­tions con­tained in this chap­ter 43.135 RCW after this one-time trans­fer of funds.

Here’s the thing, though: We have researched Ref­er­en­dum 49 fair­ly exten­sive­ly, and we’ve found that the dis­cus­sion and the debate over R‑49 con­cerned the measure’s sub­ject: trans­porta­tion fund­ing. That makes sense, because R‑49 was a trans­porta­tion plan that the Repub­li­can Leg­is­la­ture put before the vot­ers for their con­sid­er­a­tion, not an ini­tia­tive to make rais­ing tax­es more dif­fi­cult, as the sum­ma­ry of Andrew Garber’s sto­ry erro­neous­ly says.

Let’s con­sid­er the evidence.

First, let’s look at the bal­lot title for R‑49 (which is what vot­ers saw on their bal­lots). Notice it doesn’t say any­thing about reim­pos­ing the two-thirds vote requirement.

Shall motor vehi­cle excise tax­es be reduced and state rev­enues real­lo­cat­ed; $1.9 bil­lion in bonds for state and local high­ways approved; and spend­ing lim­its modified?

There’s also the explana­to­ry state­ment, basi­cal­ly a longer ver­sion of the bal­lot title.

The explana­to­ry state­ment does explic­it­ly refer to I‑601, but again, it doesn’t say any­thing about reim­pos­ing the two-thirds vote require­ment. It only refers to the pro­vi­sion estab­lish­ing a state expen­di­ture lim­it. In fact, the words “two-thirds” do not appear in the explana­to­ry state­ment at all.

What about the voter’s pam­phlet state­ment? Same deal. The argu­ments for and against R‑49 don’t men­tion the two-thirds vote require­ment, let alone I‑601. They are sole­ly con­cerned with the wis­dom (or lack there­of) of low­er­ing vehi­cle fees and com­mit­ting mon­ey to unspec­i­fied high­way con­struc­tion projects.

See for your­self. You’ll want to scroll down to page twelve of that doc­u­ment and start read­ing there. It’s a scanned copy of the 1998 pam­phlet, but it’s readable.

What about news cov­er­age of R‑49? I searched the Seat­tle Times‘ own archive for sto­ries about the mea­sure. I found sev­er­al. In none of the sto­ries did I find ref­er­ences to I‑601 or the super­ma­jor­i­ty vote require­ment in I‑601.

Here are the sto­ries I looked at:

I did find one op-ed urg­ing a “Reject” vote on R‑49, penned by con­ser­v­a­tive Wynn Can­non that men­tioned I‑601…  but only in pass­ing, and again, only in respect to the state expen­di­ture lim­it provision.

But here is the most impor­tant point of all: Had Ref­er­en­dum 49 failed, it would not have repealed I‑601. In oth­er words, the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al super­ma­jor­i­ty vote require­ment cre­at­ed by I‑601 in 1993 was not up for a vote, or a revote. It was going to remain in place regard­less of how the vot­ers vot­ed on R‑49.

It is there­fore entire­ly inap­pro­pri­ate to place R‑49 in the same cat­e­go­ry as I‑601, I‑960, and I‑1053. R‑49 was a ref­er­en­dum on trans­porta­tion fund­ing, with a line buried deep in its text that sym­bol­i­cal­ly “reaf­firmed” I‑601, put there by Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors. R‑49 was not a sequel to I‑601 like I‑960 and I‑1053.

Wash­ing­to­ni­ans need to know that the rad­i­cal right wing’s repeat­ed attempts to sab­o­tage major­i­ty rule in Wash­ing­ton are direct­ly in con­flict with the val­ues that our state and coun­try were found­ed upon, and upset the care­ful­ly forged bal­ance between major­i­ty rule and minor­i­ty rights found in our Constitution.

The law­suit filed against I‑1366 by elect­ed lead­ers and activists seeks to pre­vent our cher­ished ini­tia­tive pow­er from being improp­er­ly abused to attack and sub­vert our Con­sti­tu­tion. It should be sup­port­ed by all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who want to live in a democ­ra­cy that oper­ates accord­ing to the rule of law.

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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