Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive Initiative 976 should be blocked from taking effect until its constitutionality (or lack thereof) can be determined by the courts, a coalition of plaintiffs challenging the measure declared in a request for a preliminary injunction filed this week before Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson.
The measure, which voters considered on the November 2019 ballot and which is destined to pass, attempts to repeal billions of dollars in funding for bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments at the state, regional, and local levels.
“Whether the communities are large or small, rural or urban, the damage will be pervasive, and there is no corner of Washington that avoids harm,” attorneys for the plaintiffs wrote. “That harm will only deepen and spread with time.”
They then cited two examples of jurisdictions that will be immediately and severely harmed if I‑976 is not stopped from taking effect on December 5th, 2019:
For example, the City of Seattle alone faces the loss of $2,680,000 in revenue in just the first twenty-seven days of I‑976’s implementation, which over time could lead to approximately 175,000 annual transit hours of King County Metro service being cut. Plaintiff Garfield County Transportation Authority, providing essential ‘lifeline’ support to the State’s smallest county, would face a cut of more than half its services.
An injunction barring I‑976 from going into effect would keep dollars flowing to crucial projects and services while the legal challenge against I‑976 is considered by the courts. Plaintiffs want Judge Ferguson to order that the State and its officials be enjoined from taking any action to implement I‑976 during the pendency of the lawsuit, and direct the Department of Licensing to go on collecting all fees, taxes, and charges that I‑976 seeks to repeal while the measure is stayed..
“An injunction is warranted because Plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their constitutional claims,” plaintiffs’ counsel explained. “Washingtonians were not presented with one clear and constitutional choice at the ballot box. Instead, as with prior unconstitutional initiatives by the same sponsor, I‑976 is a poorly drafted hodge-podge that violates multiple constitutional provisions.”
Specifically, plaintiffs say they instead to prove that:
- I‑976 violates the single subject rule (the same defect that has resulted in the demise of several previous Tim Eyman initiatives)
- I‑976 violates the subject-in-title rule because the ballot title incorrectly
states that voter-approved fees are not affected and does not disclose
all of the initiative’s additional subjects
- I‑976 violates Article II, Section 37 of the Washington State Constitution because it does not fully set forth all amendments to existing statutes
- I‑976 violates separation of powers principles by intruding on administrative matters properly left for the executive branch.
- I‑976 impairs existing contracts in violation of the contracts clause
It is unlikely that we will ever find out if all of these defects are present in the initiative because the courts do not like to take up moot questions. If I‑976 is held unconstitutional because it contains multiple subjects, its other constitutional defects will become irrelevant. The initiative will be struck down in its entirety if the first alleged defect is present, because logrolling is a fatal defect.
Accompanying the motion for a preliminary injunction is a long list of declarations and exhibits that provide evidence in support of plaintiffs’ arguments.
Last week, Tim Eyman tried to dismiss this legal challenge as a sloppy attempt to thwart I‑976, but he clearly doesn’t believe that spin himself, as he has begun frantically contacting county commissioners in counties where I‑976 passed, urging them to intervene in the lawsuit on his behalf.
If you read the motion, you can see it’s well researched and well argued… just what I would expect from the attorneys whose names are on it. (The City of Seattle is represented by Pete Holmes and his staff, King County by Dan Satterberg and his staff, and the other plaintiffs by Pacifica Law Group, which has represented this organization, the Northwest Progressive Institute, in separate matters.)Motion for an injunction to block Eyman’s I‑976
Around midway through, the motion for a preliminary injunction describes I‑976’s dishonest provisions and ballot title as “unconscionable and unconstitutional.”
Those words should be part of the eventual epitaph for Initiative 976.
AN UNCONSCIONABLE, UNCONSTITUTIONAL INITIATIVE THAT WAS DISHONESTLY WRITTEN AND DISHONESTLY MARKETED TO VOTERS
MAY IT BE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW NOT TO CRAFT FISCAL POLICY
Every Tim Eyman initiative that has previously been challenged in the courts has been overturned in whole or in part, so it’s not much of a leap to presume that Initiative 976 will be struck down as unconstitutional before long.
As the plaintiffs have said, I‑976 is brimming with constitutional defects, just like the last measure Eyman got past the voters (I‑1366 from 2015), which I characterized as unconstitutional every way to Sunday.
Eyman was supremely confident that I‑1366 would be upheld despise its obvious unconstitutionality. When the ruling came down that I‑1366 was unconstitutional, Eyman was stunned, and a KING5 camera captured his reaction for posterity.
This time around, Eyman seems to be harboring no illusions that he’ll prevail.
In addition to disingenuously grousing that Attorney General Bob Ferguson is trying to “sabotage” the measure that he failed to put any care into crafting when he wrote it, Eyman is also irresponsibly urging his followers to “refuse to pay their car tabs if their bill includes fees or taxes eliminated by I‑976”.
Breaking the law has gotten Tim Eyman into heaps of trouble that Eyman has been unable to dig his way out of. If Eyman’s followers don’t want to follow him off the proverbial cliff, they’ll decline his exhortations to become freeloading lawbreakers.