Today comes reports in the Times, the P-I and elsewhere of a lawsuit fronted by the the WA State Farm Bureau, and joined by the usual suspects (BIAW, EFF, etc), challenging the Legislature’s invocation of the “emergency clause” in passing an amendment to I-601 that removed the initiative’s extra-constitutional super-majority requirement to raise the state spending limit. The lawsuit’s goal is to toss out $400 million in tax increases from the state budget, plunging the state into a financial crisis.
Hugh Spitzer, arguably our leading scholar on state constitutional law, politely calls the case “a very uphill battle.” I’d say its futile, but since Hugh’s the expert, let’s just go with what he has to say.
Spitzer said such a decision by the court “would create a large mess.” But he doesn’t think that will happen.
The court has given lawmakers broad discretion in determining what constitutes an emergency since a similar case went before the court in the mid-1990s after lawmakers approved a financing package to build a new ballpark for the Seattle Mariners, Spitzer said. There was concern the team would be put up for sale unless the team got a new stadium.
Opponents tried to mount a referendum challenge but were blocked by the use of an emergency clause. The court ruled the Legislature had the right to declare it an emergency.
“Generally, since the stadium case, legislative bodies have had significant flexibility in declaring emergencies,” Spitzer said. “It’s relatively difficult to challenge an emergency clause today based on that case and some other cases.”
The “emergency” was that the Legislature needed to pass a budget. That’s been good enough for the courts before, it’ll be good enough for the courts now. So much for the legal acumen of the knee-jerk, anti-government crowd.
While their legal arguments are pathetic, it’s their rhetorical arguments that really piss me off. Richard Stephens, the coalition’s lead attorney disingenuously echoes the EFF’s patently specious double-speak by arguing that an initiative that barely passed over a decade ago in a low-turnout, off-year election is somehow carved in stone.
“Here’s something the people put into place by initiative and the Legislature undoes it and says the people don’t get to vote on it.”
What a load of crap.
First of all, “the people” have as much opportunity to “vote on it” as they do with any other issue. These anti-government business groups have a track record of getting their own special interest initiatives on the ballot, and they could always run an initiative to reinforce I-601, as Tim Eyman unsuccessfully tried in 2003. Their complaint is really over the fact that the emergency clause prevents them from running a referendum, which requires only half the signatures and thus half the cost. This lawsuit is about money.
Second… what the fuck is so special about I-601?
That $400 million they so desperately want to repeal is targeted mostly at funding the voter approved class size and teacher pay initiatives (I-728 and I-732 respectively.) As I’ve previously and eloquently written on the subject (“EFF supports state income tax!“) the argument that I-601 more clearly expresses the “will of the people” than I-728 or I-732, represents a twisted piece of ass-backwards logic:
Clearly, the EFF believes some voter-approved initiatives should be more inviolate than others. But their criteria for measuring the will of the people appears a bit backwards; examining the margins by which these initiatives passed, a pattern quickly emerges:Year # Yes Votes 1993 I-601 774,342 (51%) 2000 I-728 1,714,485 (72%) 2000 I-732 1,501,261 (63%)
Hmmm… so let me get this straight… according to the EFF, I-728, which passed by a landslide margin of 72% as recently as 2000, should be sacrificed in the name of I-601, which received nearly a million less votes, barely squeaking by with a 51% margin all the way back in 1993? So logically, I can only assume that the EFF believes that the older the initiative, and the fewer votes it received, the more it represents the true will of the people.
By that measure, I fully expect the EFF to join me in demanding that the Legislature honor the clear and indisputable will of the people, by fully implementing voter-approved Initiative 69… which enacted an income tax way back in 1932.
Let’s put this into perspective… when I-601 passed back in 1993, it garnered nearly 300,000 fewer votes than Eyman’s viciously stupid I-892 received in 2004, when it was trounced by a 62% to 38% margin.
Will of the people… my ass!
The Legislature did what the Legislature had to do, just to keep education funding at a bare minimum level, and if the EFF, BIAW and the others don’t like it, perhaps they should do a better job electing legislators, huh? Put Democrats in charge of the budget, and they’re going to fund the public services the voters want… you know, today’s voters… the folks who elected today’s Legislature… not 51% of some phantom, off-year electorate from way back in 1993. I know the EFF believes we’d all be better off home-schooling our kids or packing them off to private religious schools, rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on public education. So if they think that’s the “will of people”, why aren’t they urging Republicans to run on this platform in an effort to seize control of the Legislature in 2006?
Nahhh. It’s bad politics to be too honest about your agenda… especially when your true agenda is so godawful frightening.