This morning, in another landmark decision, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously affirmed King County Superior Court Judge William Downing’s ruling striking down Tim Eyman‘s draconian Initiative 1366 as unconstitutional in its entirety — relegating the mean-spirited, Ted Cruz-inspired hostage-taking scheme to Washington’s political graveyard forever.
This is a huge victory. As I said in our statement to the mass media, we’re absolutely elated and grateful to our Court for upholding our Constitution and putting a stop to Tim Eyman’s outrageous abuse of our initiative power.
The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen and signed by Associate Justices Charlie Wiggins, Susan Owens, Charles Johnson, Mary Fairhurst, and Debra Stephens, found that I-1366 violated the single-subject rule of our Constitution and was unconstitutional on that basis.
“We hold that the opponents to 1-1366 have taxpayer standing and this case is justiciable,” wrote Madsen. “We also hold that 1-1366 contains two operative, unrelated provisions and does not constitute valid contingent legislation. Thus, we hold that 1-1366 violates the single-subject rule and that it is void in its entirety. Because it is unnecessary to reach opponents’ additional arguments, we decline to do so. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.”
Associate Justices Steven González, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, and Mary Yu filed a short concurring opinion agreeing with the majority, but arguing for a different rationale for finding I-1366 unconstitutional.
“The most direct, simple, and clear way to resolve this case is to recognize that Initiative 1366 sets Article XXIII on its head,” the three justices said.
“The initiative ignores the constitutionally required first step—the proposal of a constitutional amendment in either house. The initiative then skips the constitutionally required second step — a [two-thirds] vote in each house approving the amendment — and jumps directly to something like the third-ratification of the voters before any vote in the legislature. Only then does it jump back to the constitutionally mandated second step — a two-thirds vote of each house to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Initiatives are not the proper vehicle to amend the constitution. Initiative 1366 is unconstitutional.”
Maden’s single-subject analysis was guided by the Court’s previous decisions in Amalgamated Transit Union (2000) and Kiga (2001), in which the Court struck down Tim Eyman’s I-695 and I-722 as unconstitutional, respectively.
Madsen astutely noted:
In its essence, I-1366 mirrors I-695 and I-722. Section 2 of 1-1366 specifically sets the sales tax rate at 5.5 percent, just as I-695 specifically set license tab fees at $30 and I-722 provided for a one-time nullification and refund of a specific tax. Section 3 of I-1366 proposes a constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote or voter approval to raise all taxes and legislative approval to increase any fees. In other words, section 3 requires the creation of a permanent, systemic change in approving all future tax increases, which is similar to the voter approval for tax increases provision of I-695 and the property tax assessment provision of I-722.
There’s a reason, by the way, for these parallels: Tim Eyman doesn’t believe in the plan of government our state’s Founders gave us. He is obsessed with sabotaging the Constitution to take away the Legislature’s power to raise revenue and levy taxes. That’s what most of his initiatives have tried to do, from I-695 to I-1366. And consequently, most of them have been struck down because they attempted to nullify provisions of our Constitution… provisions like Article II, Section 22, which says that bills shall pass by majority vote.
Initiatives are like bills: they can be used to create, modify, or repeal statutes, but they cannot alter Washington’s Constitution, its highest law.
Again and again, Eyman has come up against Washington’s Constitution in his attempts to radically alter how the Evergreen State is governed. And that’s no accident. Our Founders had the foresight to craft a plan of government modeled on that of the United States that would last Washington a long time. Today’s Supreme Court decision is further proof that the system they gave us works, and works well.
It matters not to Eyman that Article VII (Revenue and Taxation) declares flatly, “The power of taxation shall never be suspended, surrendered or contracted away.”
It matters not to Eyman that Article II, Section 22 declares that bills in the Legislature shall pass only by majority vote (which means greater than fifty percent of legislators in each house: no more, and no less).
And it matters not to Eyman that Article 19, also of Article II, says, “No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.”
As a citizen, Eyman does not have the power to propose constitutional amendments, so he is not in a position to directly attack the provisions I just mentioned that he doesn’t like. It’s why he tried to coerce lawmakers into doing his bidding with I-1366. Article XXIII of Washington’s Constitution gives only elected legislators (representatives and senators) the power to introduce amendments.
But Eyman doesn’t care. Year after year, he has convinced wealthy men to give him huge sums of money to force statewide votes on Trojan horse schemes purposely intended to wreck our government. And just about every time he’s gotten one of these past the voters, those of us committed to the protection of our Constitution have dutifully gone to court to get them thrown out.
The Supreme Court has now struck down a total of seven Eyman initiatives: I-695, I-722, I-747, I-960/I-1053/I-1185, I-1366.
More than a decade and a half have passed since Tim Eyman became a full-time initiative promoter. By now, it should be abundantly clear to everyone — Republicans, independents, and Democrats, progressives, biconceptuals, and conservatives — that Tim Eyman is not interested in working constructively with others to build a better state. He relishes being a demolition crew chief, taking a wrecking ball to the commons and putting our Constitution through the shredder. His objective is to tear down what makes Washington great.
If that weren’t bad enough, Eyman is also a serial cheater who regularly violates Washington’s public disclosure laws and lies to his own donors and followers. Many people have found out the hard way that Eyman is not to be trusted.
If you ask us, Eyman is unquestionably a candidate for the title of person who best personifies greed in Washington. Sadly, charlatans like him are an increasingly powerful force in our politics. There are a lot of disturbing parallels between Eyman and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
It’s fitting that Eyman’s associates are all Trump supporters. Doug Ericksen and Don Benton, who are among the Senate Republicans closest to Eyman, are Trump’s top surrogates in the state. Eyman’s cohort Mike Fagan was a speaker at Trump’s Spokane rally. And Eyman, who shares a middle name (Donald) with The Donald, has implied in his emails that he’s a Trump fan, too.
(Birds of a feather flock together, as they say….)
While today’s ruling striking down I-1366 is a wonderful victory, we know that it’s unlikely to deter Eyman. If he can persuade his benefactors to give him more money, he’ll be back with another scheme. But we also believe that with every defeat, Eyman gets a little weaker and loses a little more credibility. The nexus of people around him seems to keep getting smaller and smaller.
That is a very good thing. The people of Washington can count on us to continue our work maintaining a first line of defense against Eyman’s awful initiatives and his toxic politics. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Eyman may be relentless, but we are even more relentless. The very first thing I said here on the Cascadia Advocate last November when early returns showed I-1366 passing was, it’s time to go back to court to bury this piece of garbage. That is just what we have done, thanks to the great work of Paul Lawrence and his team at Pacifica Law Group.
Thank you to everyone who has kept NPI and Permanent Defense going in the fight to protect the state we love from Tim Eyman’s initiative factory. We proudly and joyfully share today’s victory for Washington’s future with you.