NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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.

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

HUGE VICTORY: Washington’s highest court rules Tim Eyman’s I‑976 is unconstitutional!

Wash­ing­ton State’s Con­sti­tu­tion has once again been upheld and a destruc­tive, decep­tive Tim Eyman ini­tia­tive that sought to vio­late it firm­ly struck down.

In a deci­sion sup­port­ed by all nine jus­tices, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court today ruled that Tim Eyman’s I‑976 (which sought to wipe out bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing for mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture across the state) vio­lates Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 19 of the state’s plan of gov­ern­ment. The Court held:

The peo­ple of our state have the pow­er to pro­pose and approve leg­is­la­tion. When the peo­ple act in their leg­isla­tive capac­i­ty, they are, like any oth­er leg­isla­tive body, bound by con­sti­tu­tion­al con­straints. Under our con­sti­tu­tion, “[n]o bill shall embrace more than one sub­ject, and that shall be expressed in the title.” Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure 976 con­tains more than one sub­ject, and its sub­ject is not accu­rate­ly expressed in its title. Accord­ing­ly, it is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.

In addi­tion to declar­ing the ini­tia­tive uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, the jus­tices remand­ed the mat­ter back to King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son “for fur­ther pro­ceed­ings con­sis­tent with this opin­ion.” (Fer­gu­son had pre­vi­ous­ly ruled that most of the ini­tia­tive was con­sti­tu­tion­al while strik­ing down two sec­tions.)

Eight jus­tices signed the lead opin­ion authored by Jus­tice Steven Gon­za­lez, who is one of the most for­mi­da­ble legal minds in Wash­ing­ton State… a jurist of excep­tion­al wis­dom, integri­ty, and char­ac­ter. Jus­tice Bar­bara Mad­sen filed a con­cur­ring opin­ion agree­ing that I‑976 vio­lates the sin­gle sub­ject rule of the Con­sti­tu­tion, but dis­agree­ing that it vio­lates the sub­ject-in-title require­ment.

Supreme Court rul­ing strik­ing down I‑976

As a con­se­quence of the deci­sion, I‑976 will not go into effect. Bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing for roads, bus­es, fer­ries, side­walks, bike lanes, trains, the State Patrol, and projects to improve mobil­i­ty, includ­ing the move­ment of freight, will be pre­served. This is a huge vic­to­ry for Wash­ing­ton State’s future.

We’ve post­ed a state­ment at NPI’s Per­ma­nent Defense hail­ing the deci­sion.

Kudos to the legal team that suc­cess­ful­ly brought this legal chal­lenge, includ­ing David Hack­ett, David James Eldred, Jenifer C. Merkel, and Erin Baine Jack­son of King Coun­ty (which NPI is proud to call home!), Car­olyn Boies, Eri­ca Franklin, and John Ben­jamin Kerr Scho­chet of the City of Seat­tle, and Paci­fi­ca Law Group’s team: Matthew Segal, Paul Lawrence, Jes­si­ca Anne Skel­ton, and Shae Blood.

NPI is very proud to be a client of Paci­fi­ca Law Group.

Among Paci­fi­ca’s oth­er clients is the Wash­ing­ton State Tran­sit Asso­ci­a­tion (WSTA), one of the plain­tiffs Paci­fi­ca ably rep­re­sent­ed in this case.

“We are pleased with the Court’s deci­sion to rec­og­nize the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of this ini­tia­tive,” said WSTA Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Justin Leighton in a state­ment inform­ing the local tran­sit agen­cies that WSTA serves of the deci­sion.

“Our State Con­sti­tu­tion, the bedrock of our laws, out­lines firm­ly how an ini­tia­tive should be pre­sent­ed to the peo­ple for a vote, and I‑976 did not pass that test.”

“More­over, I‑976 was explic­it­ly designed to under­mine the direct fund­ing to pub­lic safe­ty on our roads, preser­va­tion and main­te­nance of our bridges, and hit­ting home to us all, the mobil­i­ty and access for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, seniors, tran­sit-depen­dent, and essen­tial rid­ers,” Leighton observed. “It was incum­bent upon us to ensure the due dili­gence of bring­ing this case for­ward late in 2019, not just for our mem­bers but for our rid­ers and com­mu­ni­ties.”

In addi­tion to the Wash­ing­ton State Tran­sit Asso­ci­a­tion, plain­tiffs includ­ed King Coun­ty, the City of Seat­tle, the Port of Seat­tle, Garfield Coun­ty Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty (the name­sake of the case), Inter­ci­ty Tran­sit, Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton Cities, Amal­ga­mat­ed Tran­sit Union of Wash­ing­ton, and Michael Rogers.

King Coun­ty and Seat­tle were rep­re­sent­ed by their own coun­cil, while Paci­fi­ca rep­re­sent­ed the oth­er plain­tiffs, includ­ing Garfield Coun­ty Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty, the named lead plain­tiff. (Hur­rah for Garfield Coun­ty, which stood up and fought to save its rur­al bus and para­tran­sit ser­vice!)

King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, who is a long­time sup­port­er of NPI’s research, also praised the Supreme Court for its well rea­soned deci­sion.

“Today’s rul­ing resound­ing­ly rejects this uncon­sti­tu­tion­al mea­sure, just as the peo­ple of King Coun­ty reject­ed it at the polls, and we can now move for­ward to build a trans­porta­tion sys­tem and econ­o­my that gives every per­son the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a bet­ter future,” said Con­stan­tine.

“I‑976 threat­ened to reduce or elim­i­nate local and vot­er-approved fund­ing for pub­lic trans­porta­tion, bridges and roads, and oth­er crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture and ser­vices across our state,” the Exec­u­tive not­ed.

“It jeop­ar­dized near­ly $100 mil­lion in fund­ing in King Coun­ty, includ­ing Region­al Mobil­i­ty Grant Pro­gram awards that fund RapidRide expan­sion and reli­a­bil­i­ty improve­ments, and fund­ing for tran­sit serv­ing per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties.”

“At King Coun­ty, we are grat­i­fied to be able to con­tin­ue to work with local juris­dic­tions, oth­er tran­sit agen­cies, and part­ners to fund safe, sus­tain­able, and equi­table mobil­i­ty for all our res­i­dents.”

“Tran­sit and mobil­i­ty invest­ments will be cen­tral to our recov­ery as we rebuild from the eco­nom­ic dev­as­ta­tion from the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, and I’m pleased to have this shad­ow of uncer­tain­ty lift­ed by the Court.”

“Today is a good day,” agreed Trans­porta­tion Choic­es Coali­tion.

“2020 brings us good news?!!,” TCC’s Keiko Budech tweet­ed.

“I‑976 was a dev­as­tat­ing blow to #WA’s trans­porta­tion sys­tem. Today the State Supreme Court ruled it uncon­sti­tu­tion­al! This is a big win! We need more trans­porta­tion choic­es to get peo­ple where they need to go, not less.”

That’s exact­ly how we feel.

Free­dom of mobil­i­ty is a mat­ter of free­dom. You should­n’t be forced to dri­ve to get where you want to go. And if you do want to dri­ve to get where you’re going, then you ought to be able to reach your des­ti­na­tion safe­ly and with­out the headaches involved in sit­ting in bumper to bumper traf­fic jams.

Trans­porta­tion Choic­es Coali­tion is so named because Wash­ing­to­ni­ans deserve choic­es. I‑976’s defeat means that invest­ments in mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture are like­ly to con­tin­ue. The pan­dem­ic has already tak­en a toll on oth­er rev­enue sources. Imple­ment­ing I‑976 (as Repub­li­cans now want to do through leg­is­la­tion) would gut what’s left of the trans­porta­tion bud­get.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee knows how unwise and fool­ish that would be.

Unlike his pre­de­ces­sors Gary Locke and Chris Gre­goire, Inslee has shown zero inter­est in adopt­ing Eyman’s agen­da and mak­ing it his own mere­ly because Eyman suc­ceed­ed in run­ning anoth­er con against the vot­ers.

In addi­tion, Repub­li­cans are out of pow­er in the Leg­is­la­ture and are high­ly like­ly to remain out of pow­er in 2021 and 2022, as Democ­rats appear poised to retain their robust majori­ties in both cham­bers, and per­haps even build upon them.

Repub­li­cans will be rel­e­gat­ed to clam­or­ing for a spe­cial ses­sion and a vote on an I‑976 do-over bill from the side­lines. Democ­rats must reject these pro­pos­als.

Wash­ing­to­ni­ans do deserve leg­is­la­tion to improve our state’s tax code. We’d like to see a vehi­cle fee sched­ule that is fair­er and eas­i­er to under­stand, and so do most leg­is­la­tors we’ve talked to. That’s an achiev­able reform.

We also sore­ly need ini­tia­tive reform.

His­to­ry repeat­ed itself today when the Supreme Court struck down I‑976. It’s a movie we’ve all seen before, as I‑976 is the lat­est in a long line of Eyman ini­tia­tives to be declared uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.

The Court would not have need­ed to pro­tect our Con­sti­tu­tion from I‑976, how­ev­er, if those vot­ers who turned out last autumn had reject­ed it. And those vot­ers were lied to, by spon­sor Tim Eyman and by I‑976 itself.

We need to over­haul how bal­lot titles (the only lan­guage that vot­ers see on their bal­lots sum­ma­riz­ing the mea­sures) are devel­oped and cho­sen, to elim­i­nate the pos­si­bil­i­ty that vot­ers will see mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions on their bal­lots in the future.

Had vot­ers not been lied to in 2019, they might have decid­ed I‑976 dif­fer­ent­ly.

We can’t know what would have hap­pened, of course.

But what we do know is what our Con­sti­tu­tion says.

Our founders insist­ed that pro­posed laws accu­rate­ly describe their sub­jects with­in their titles. They also insist­ed that pro­posed laws be lim­it­ed to a sin­gle sub­ject to pre­vent logrolling. Tim Eyman delib­er­ate­ly ignored these rules in his quest to wreck as much mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture as pos­si­ble.

Tim has also repeat­ed­ly tried to argue that vot­ers weren’t con­fused.

But that’s an absurd thing for some­one who lied to vot­ers to say.

We doc­u­ment­ed and debunked many of Eyman’s lies about I‑976 at Per­ma­nent Defense dur­ing the cam­paign. Despite our efforts to cor­rect the record, those lies received lots of air­play dur­ing the runup to the elec­tion, and undoubt­ed­ly influ­enced the vote. Here are some of the lies that Eyman told:

Per­haps the biggest lie of all was the state­ment in the bal­lot title that said vot­er approved charges would be exempt from the roll­back of vehi­cle fees. There is no such exemp­tion in the ini­tia­tive, as the Supreme Court not­ed.

Eyman’s mar­ket­ing slo­gan was also a lie. Eyman told Wash­ing­to­ni­ans they would get “thir­ty dol­lar car tabs” if the mea­sure went through. But in real­i­ty, the low­est any­one would pay would be $43.25 had the ini­tia­tive sur­vived legal scruti­ny. $43.25 is not thir­ty bucks. Eyman him­self was forced to con­cede in an inter­view with The News Tri­bune of Taco­ma that I‑976 does­n’t deliv­er “$30 tabs”.

For­tu­nate­ly, the pile of dis­hon­esty and bad pol­i­cy that is I‑976 is no more. Good rid­dance to I‑976. After a mul­ti-year effort to van­quish this hor­ri­ble ini­tia­tive, we have won. We will remain vig­i­lant and on guard through our Per­ma­nent Defense project to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton from more bad bal­lot mea­sures… but today, we cel­e­brate a great vic­to­ry for our Con­sti­tu­tion and free­dom of mobil­i­ty!

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2 Comments

  1. Darn fun­ny every­thing refers to King Coun­ty. How many coun­ties are there in Wash­ing­ton state and how much fund­ing goes to each? I am tiered of all the legaleze and how lawyers and polit­i­cal peo­ple talk around the peo­ple.

    # by Tarakihi :: October 20th, 2020 at 10:51 AM
    • There are thir­ty-nine coun­ties in total in Wash­ing­ton State and the small ones all get more in fund­ing than they pay in tax­es. King Coun­ty is an exporter of tax dol­lars.

      # by Andrew Villeneuve :: October 21st, 2020 at 6:59 PM

One Ping

  1. […] « HUGE VICTORY: Washington’s high­est court rules Tim Eyman’s I‑976 is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al! […]

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