Pictogram: Don't mess with our Constitution
Don't mess with our Constitution

Any­one who has spent time attempt­ing to under­stand the pol­i­tics of the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty knows that Repub­li­cans spend an awful lot of time lis­ten­ing to (and tak­ing their cues from) mil­i­tant, right wing ini­tia­tive prof­i­teer Tim Eyman, who has become obsessed late­ly with gut­ting Wash­ing­ton’s cher­ished tra­di­tion of major­i­ty rule and replac­ing it with rule by the few.

Eyman is demand­ing that leg­is­la­tors vote to change the Con­sti­tu­tion to require that any bill that rais­es or even recov­ers rev­enue for the state trea­sury receive a two-thirds vote on the floor of each house of the Leg­is­la­ture — oth­er­wise, it would die. Such a change to our plan of gov­ern­ment would per­ma­nent­ly trans­fer pow­er from the many to a few, as this pic­togram illustrates:

Pictogram: Don't mess with our Constitution
Don’t mess with our Constitution

House and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have tak­en up Eyman’s cause and are beat­ing the drum for an amend­ment, along with Eyman’s friend Jason Merci­er, who works for John Carl­son’s Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter. Eyman and Repub­li­cans insist that alter­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion to sab­o­tage Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22 would be a good thing.

If super­ma­jor­i­ty require­ments are so won­der­ful and lead to bipar­ti­san com­pro­mise, why not require super­ma­jor­i­ty votes for every­thing? (And, for that mat­ter, why stop at two-thirds? What about three-fourths… or nine-tenths?)

Repub­li­cans don’t seem to have answers to these questions.

Last autumn, I urged Carl­son and oth­er back­ers of I‑1366 to imag­ine the shoe being on the oth­er foot. What if it were pro­gres­sives who were propos­ing requir­ing super­ma­jor­i­ty votes for cer­tain actions? Would Repub­li­cans be on board with that? (We can’t imag­ine that they would be.)

Repub­li­cans have made it clear over the last few days that they have an extreme, aggres­sive agen­da for Wash­ing­ton State. Jamal Raad, the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­tor, has been keep­ing an eye on the bills that Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors have been fil­ing for this year’s short ses­sion. This morn­ing, he sent out a com­pi­la­tion of some of them to the press:

HB 2291 — Rolling Back The Min­i­mum Wage. Repub­li­cans want to account for health ben­e­fits when cal­cu­lat­ing the min­i­mum wage rate and pro­vide a “youth wage” which would cut the min­i­mum wage for thou­sands of workers.

HB 2294 - Defund­ing Planned Par­ent­hood. Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton State are join­ing the nation­al Repub­li­can mania of defund­ing Planned Parenthood.

HB 2325 — Math, Sci­ence and…Guns? Repub­li­cans want to bring the NRA into our high schools at tax­pay­er expense to teach our stu­dents about their far-right inter­pre­ta­tion of the 2nd Amendment.

SB 6158 — Raf­fling Off Guns With­out Back­ground Checks. This bill would allow con­ser­v­a­tive and Repub­li­can polit­i­cal groups to give out guns to their mem­bers at fundrais­ers with­out vot­er-approved uni­ver­sal back­ground checks.

SB 6173 — Ban­ning Poli­cies To Lim­it Green­house Gas Emis­sions. One of the State Sen­ate’s lead recip­i­ents of cam­paign cash from the fos­sil fuel indus­try, Doug Erick­sen, a Don­ald Trump sup­port­er, is spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion that would block action to pro­tect Wash­ing­to­ni­ans from cli­mate change.

HB 2293 — Award­ing Elec­toral Votes To Repub­li­cans. Know­ing they are most like­ly nom­i­nat­ing a rad­i­cal con­ser­v­a­tive like Don­ald Trump for Pres­i­dent who has no shot at win­ning here in Wash­ing­ton state, Repub­li­cans are try­ing to sneak a way to award elec­toral votes to the GOP nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent even when they even­tu­al­ly lose.

None of these bills stand a chance of becom­ing law or even pass­ing the Leg­is­la­ture, because Democ­rats cur­rent­ly con­trol the gov­er­nor’s man­sion and the House. How­ev­er, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic House major­i­ty has been whit­tled down to a mar­gin of just one vote, and Repub­li­cans are mak­ing a play for the House in 2016. They’re also look­ing to main­tain their hold on the Senate.

If they’re suc­cess­ful, at this time next year, they’ll con­trol both hous­es of the Leg­is­la­ture for the first time in decades — and they’d be able to pass all of the above bills with all or near­ly all of their mem­bers march­ing in lockstep.

(Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22 of Wash­ing­ton’s Con­sti­tu­tion says bills pass by major­i­ty vote, and if you can count to fifty in the House and twen­ty-five in the Sen­ate, then you can get a bill sent to the gov­er­nor’s desk. It’s been this way since statehood.)

But what if Tim Eyman’s rules were in effect for the afore­men­tioned bills? What if a two-thirds vote were the stan­dard for pas­sage? Why, in that case, Democ­rats could block them… all of them, even if they only had a sub­ma­jor­i­ty of each house of the Leg­is­la­ture (and not a major­i­ty). It would­n’t mat­ter how suc­cess­ful Repub­li­cans were at win­ning in swing dis­tricts in 2016. They would­n’t be able to imple­ment their agen­da on their own, because Democ­rats would have a leg­isla­tive veto over them.

Major­i­ty rule is good for every­one — Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans alike — but unfor­tu­nate­ly, this seems to be lost on the Repub­li­cans cur­rent­ly serv­ing in the Leg­is­la­ture. We won­der: How would Repub­li­cans like Bruce Dammeier and Drew MacEwen feel about a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment requir­ing a two-thirds vote for bills to roll back the min­i­mum wage, over­ride exec­u­tive orders by the gov­er­nor, or allow guns to be pur­chased with no ques­tions asked? Do Repub­li­cans still think super­ma­jori­ties are a good idea in those cas­es? And if not — why not?

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.

Adjacent posts