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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Weekend Reading: All of the possible ways Tim Eyman’s I‑976 violates the Constitution

Today, the coali­tion of plain­tiffs suing to con­sign Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976 to the dust­bin of Wash­ing­ton State polit­i­cal his­to­ry filed their Motion for Sum­ma­ry Judg­ment, request­ing that King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son find the mea­sure uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and per­ma­nent­ly enjoin its enforce­ment.

In a 20,495 word mem­o­ran­dum, the coali­tion’s attor­neys pow­er­ful­ly lay out the case for I‑976 to be struck down, cit­ing more than a dozen ways in which the mea­sure vio­lates the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion.

“I‑976 had a decep­tive bal­lot title that mis­lead the vot­ers,” the brief’s con­cise con­clu­sion begins. “It lied about ensur­ing car tabs would be $30.”

“It com­bined mul­ti­ple unre­lat­ed sub­jects to cob­ble togeth­er enough sup­port to get the mea­sure passed, a clas­sic uncon­sti­tu­tion­al log-rolling guise.”

“I‑976 fails to set forth all statutes it amends ren­der­ing its appli­ca­tion con­fus­ing.”

“It intrudes on local home rule pow­ers of tax­a­tion for local pur­pos­es, seeks to over­turn local elec­tion results, and requires diver­sion of local­ly approved tax­es.”

“I‑976 impairs con­tract oblig­a­tions by seek­ing to elim­i­nate Burien’s VLF [vehi­cle license fee] that have been pledged to secure its bonds.”

“Each of these mat­ters are con­sti­tu­tion­al vio­la­tions requir­ing that I‑976 be struck down,” the brief con­cludes. “Plain­tiffs respect­ful­ly request that this Court grant them sum­ma­ry judg­ment and declare I‑976 uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.​”

The brief itself clocks in at six­ty-five pages, and exhaus­tive­ly dis­cuss­es the defects that make I‑976 the lat­est fatal­ly flawed Tim Eyman mea­sure. There are also a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of pages of sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion.

This is whol­ly inten­tion­al. It’s the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the plain­tiffs to prove beyond a rea­son­able doubt that I‑976 vio­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion. They have the bur­den of proof. Accord­ing­ly, the coali­tion suing to defeat I‑976 has thor­ough­ly exam­ined the ini­tia­tive under a micro­scope, and left no stone unturned in its legal analy­sis.

This is eas­i­ly one of the most com­pre­hen­sive and sat­is­fy­ing briefs I’ve ever read. Kudos to King Coun­ty, the City of Seat­tle, and Paci­fi­ca Law Group on a job well done. By far, my favorite part of the brief is the state­ment of issues, which nice­ly serves as an author­i­ta­tive, defin­i­tive list of all of the ways in which this dump­ster fire of an ini­tia­tive like­ly vio­lates the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion.

Here is that list, for your read­ing enjoy­ment on this sec­ond week­end of Jan­u­ary.


  1. Does the I‑976 bal­lot title vio­late arti­cle II, sec­tion 19 sub­ject-in-title require­ments because it deceives vot­ers with the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions that “vot­er approved charges” are an excep­tion to the $30 cap on motor vehi­cle license fees, and that vot­ers will pay no more than $30 when licens­ing a vehi­cle?
  2. Does the I‑976 bal­lot title vio­late arti­cle II, sec­tion 19 sub­ject-in-title require­ments because it fails to include numer­ous nec­es­sary sub­jects and does not prompt inquiry into those omit­ted sub­jects?
  3. Does I‑976 vio­late the arti­cle II, sec­tion 19 sin­gle sub­ject require­ments because it com­bines mul­ti­ple sub­jects that are not ger­mane to each oth­er?
  4. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle II, sec­tion 37 by amend­ing exist­ing statutes with­out set­ting the amend­ments forth in full, there­by result­ing in con­fu­sion as to the effect of the new law?
  5. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle XI, sec­tion 12 by depriv­ing munic­i­pal gov­ern­ments of vest­ed local tax­ing author­i­ty for local pur­pos­es pri­or to expi­ra­tion of the local tax?
  6. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle I, sec­tion 19 by using a statewide vote to over­ride exist­ing local votes and dilut­ing the voice of local vot­ers on mat­ters of local con­cern?
  7. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle VII, sec­tion 5 by divert­ing tax dol­lars from the pur­pos­es approved by local vot­ers?
  8. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle I, sec­tion 23 by impair­ing bond oblig­a­tions?
  9. Does I‑976 vio­late Washington’s sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers doc­trine by intrud­ing on the exec­u­tive func­tion of admin­is­ter­ing bond repay­ment?
  10. Does I‑976 vio­late Washington’s sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers doc­trine by uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly del­e­gat­ing leg­isla­tive func­tions regard­ing the effec­tive dates of laws and the legal force of cer­tain statutes to the dis­cre­tionary deci­sions of a munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment?
  11. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle I, sec­tion 12 by con­fer­ring a spe­cial priv­i­lege on a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion by requir­ing DOL [Depart­ment of Licens­ing] to use the Kel­ley Blue Book val­u­a­tion prod­uct?

That’s eleven total poten­tial vio­la­tions of the Con­sti­tu­tion iden­ti­fied by the plain­tiffs. With cer­tain kinds of vio­la­tions, sev­er­abil­i­ty does not come into play, owing to the nature of the vio­la­tion, so a sin­gle strike against a mea­sure can be suf­fi­cient to void it in its entire­ty. (Logrolling would be a good exam­ple.)

Back in 2015, when we were work­ing against the last Tim Eyman mea­sure that appeared on the bal­lot (I‑1366), I often described it as “uncon­sti­tu­tion­al every way to Sun­day.” In 2016, the Supreme Court emphat­i­cal­ly agreed that I‑1366 was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, unan­i­mous­ly strik­ing down the mea­sure in its entire­ty.

I‑976 shares the same char­ac­ter­is­tics as I‑1366. Giv­en how bad­ly writ­ten it is, I don’t think it stands much of a chance of with­stand­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al scruti­ny.

Tomor­row, we’ll have anoth­er install­ment of Week­end Read­ing that excerpts anoth­er one of my favorite pas­sages from the motion for sum­ma­ry judg­ment filed by the coali­tion of plain­tiffs in Garfield Coun­ty et al v. State of Wash­ing­ton et al.

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  1. You think that Tim Eyman would have learned by now. Nobody has the right to pass leg­is­la­tion that denies local Tax­ing juris­dic­tions the abil­i­ty to deter­mine for them­selves. Tim’s ulti­mate tar­get is Sound Tran­sit. Which he has a par­tic­u­lar vile hatred of.

    # by Mark Noonan :: January 10th, 2020 at 9:25 PM
  2. Strike one, strike two, strike three… no, wait, make that eleven strikes against I‑976! Wowza!

    # by Edward Glume :: January 17th, 2020 at 8:11 PM

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