Notorious initiative profiteer Tim Eyman has been active in Washington State politics a very long time — around twenty years, in fact. And as readers of the Cascadia Advocate are well aware, Tim has made selling destructive right-wing initiatives his full time occupation… to the detriment of Washington State.
The majority of the initiatives Eyman has attempted have either failed to qualify for the ballot or been defeated by voters, and the majority of the initiatives Eyman has gotten past the voters have been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional, beginning with I‑695 in 2000 and continuing with I‑722 the following year.
Since then, a slew of further Eyman schemes (I‑747, I‑960/I‑1053/I‑1185, I‑1366) have been challenged and struck down as unconstitutional, while repeated legal challenges instigated by Eyman wealthy benefactor Kemper Freeman Jr. against Sound Transit’s East Link project on the basis of constitutionality have failed.
You might think that someone who has been active in Washington politics for so long and who has become a full time (albeit unelected) lawmaker would have learned something about lawmaking, and specifically, how to write laws that comport with the plan of government our state’s Founders gave us.
But Eyman has not.
Time and again, Eyman has demonstrated contempt for our Constitution by seeking to sabotage it, either with unconstitutional initiatives or through amendments introduced his cronies in the Legislature, like Pam Roach (R‑31st District).
More alarmingly, it appears Eyman is incapable of merely comprehending the Constitution’s basic provisions. That’s apparent from an email Eyman just sent out today, in which he whines and complains that Democrats are scheming to leave the 31st District Senate seat vacant so that Republicans will lack a majority in the state Senate for the first few weeks of the legislative session.
Next week is huge. Pam Roach won her race for the Pierce County council and takes office on Tuesday, January 3rd. Later that same night starting at 7pm, the 37 [Republican] precinct committee officers in the 31st district will meet at Sumner Middle School to choose 3 potential successors for her senate seat. Then it will be up to the King County Council to appoint one of them.
The Democrats want to delay the selection of Pam’s successor so that the Senate will tied 24–24. But a tie means nothing gets done, right? Not according to Cyrus Habib, the new activist lieutenant governor. He thinks he can break tie votes in the senate (many believe he cannot). So their plan is to not choose a successor and then jam through a slew of liberal legislation the first week of the session and get it over to the Democrat-controlled House and onto Inslee’s desk likkity split. It’s pure sleaze but whaddya expect from Democrats.
An aside: Eyman has some nerve accusing Democratic elected officials of “pure sleaze”, especially considering he tried to blackmail Democrats into voting against their values and principles with I‑1366 last year (he failed) and then tried to punish them through an illegal attack campaign several months later.
I have no doubt that were Republicans in a position to deny Democrats a twenty-fifth vote in the state Senate by taking their time making an appointment, they would do it in a heartbeat… and Eyman would be cheering them on
We have seen Republicans adopt scorched-earth tactics at many levels of government in order to get their way. For instance, power-hungry Republicans shamefully refused to act on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court. Garland didn’t even get a hearing.
I have yet to hear Eyman condemn such behavior as sleazy, and I doubt I ever will. Eyman typically only criticizes Republicans when he is angry about them working with Democrats to get something done — like pass a transportation package.
Anyway, in the above-quoted paragraphs, I’ve highlighted two passages that serve as a reminder that Eyman’s grasp of our Constitution is very poor.
In the first passage, where Eyman is attempting to describe how Pam Roach will be replaced, he writes: “Then it will be up to the King County Council to appoint one of them.” This is incorrect. Actually, it is not up to the King County Council; it is up to the King and Pierce County Councils, acting together.
The Constitution says that when a legislative vacancy exists in a district spanning county lines, the legislative authorities of each county shall make a joint appointment. The 31st is such a district; it includes precincts in both King and Pierce counties. In fact, much of the district is in Pierce County, not King County.
Here is what the Constitution says about joint appointments:
ARTICLE II, SECTION 15. VACANCIES IN LEGISLATURE AND IN PARTISAN COUNTY ELECTIVE OFFICE. […] That in case of a vacancy occurring in the office of joint senator, or joint representative, the vacancy shall be filled from a list of three nominees selected by the state central committee, by appointment by the joint action of the boards of county legislative authorities of the counties composing the joint senatorial or joint representative district, the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same legislative district and of the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated, and in case a majority of the members of the county legislative authority do not agree upon the appointment within sixty days after the vacancy occurs, the governor shall within thirty days thereafter, and from the list of nominees provided for herein, appoint a person who shall be from the same legislative district and of the same political party as the legislator whose office has been vacated.
The statutory Republican state central committee will need to send the King and Pierce County Councils three names of potential successors to Pam Roach. After they do so, the councils will have the responsibility and opportunity to fill the vacancy through a joint appointment.
If they cannot agree, then the decision will eventually fall to Governor Inslee, who will need to make a selection from the same list.
That is the process.
Regrettably, Eyman neglected to mention these important details to his followers. He told them that the Democratic-dominated King County Council will get to pick Roach’s successor, but again, that’s not so. There will be no joint appointment unless the King and Pierce councils can agree on one of the three names.
Then Eyman goes on, bizarrely, to question whether incoming Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib will have the power to break ties, writing: “He thinks he can break tie votes in the senate (many believe he cannot).”
Many believe he cannot? What? Who are these people Eyman’s obliquely referring to? Whoever they are, they’re not familiar with our plan of government.
Cyrus Habib will in fact have the power to break ties because the Washington State Constitution explicitly gives him that power:
ARTICLE II, SECTION 10. ELECTION OF OFFICERS. Each house shall elect its own officers; and when the lieutenant governor shall not attend as president, or shall act as governor, the senate shall choose a temporary president. When presiding, the lieutenant governor shall have the deciding vote in case of an equal division of the senate.
Note that last sentence: When presiding, the lieutenant governor shall have the deciding vote in case of an equal division of the senate.
The Constitution does not say may; it says shall. It is plainly evident that the Lieutenant Governor has the power to break tie votes in the Senate.
There have been occasions when the Senate deadlocked under retiring Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, and he exercised his authority to break ties accordingly.
Cyrus Habib, it should be mentioned, is also presently a state senator who (like Pam Roach) is in the middle of a four-year term.
Habib’s resignation will have taken effect by the time the Legislature convenes on January 9th, which will also leave the Democrats short one member of their caucus unless the King County Council has chosen a successor by then.
The district Habib represents lies solely within King County, so unlike in the 31st, the King County Council will have the power to choose Habib’s successor itself.
Habib will take office as the sixteenth Lieutenant Governor of Washington on January 11th, 2016, two days after the Legislature convenes.
Eyman has a great desire to see Roach’s seat get filled because Republicans will lack a working majority until she has a successor. And that means Republicans won’t be able to attempt to sabotage Senate rules to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue, or bring anything of consequence to the floor for a vote.
Incidentally, it is actually Democrats who have a Senate majority for 2017 — at least on paper — because Senator Tim Sheldon of the 35th District calls himself a Democrat, and was elected as a Democrat, most recently in 2014.
Were Sheldon caucusing with the party he claims to belong to, then Democrats would have an actual majority of twenty-five for 2017, thanks to Lisa Wellman’s recent victory over Steve Litzow in the 41st District.
However, Sheldon has been caucusing with Republicans for four years now. He and Rodney Tom defected to the Republicans in a post-election power coup. The two of them became Senate President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader, respectively, and Republicans assumed control over the Senate’s committee structure.
For its part, the Democratic Party happens to consider Tim Sheldon a Republican. Amusingly, so does Tim Eyman, who claimed in his email today that voters voted in a Republican-controlled state Senate this year, even though Senate Democrats had a net gain of one seat in the election that now gives them a theoretical majority.
Well, at least there’s one thing the Democratic Party and Tim Eyman can agree on.