Eyman’s Initiative 1053 is Unconstitutional

Tim Eyman’s 2010 Washington State initiative push is Initiative 1053.  It is unconstitutional.  It is Washington State’s version of the US Senate’s filibuster. The filibuster is not in the US Constitution.  It is only a rule adopted by the US Senate. The same is true if I-1053 passes. The Washington State Legislature is not required to abide by the provisions of I-1053.

I-1053 is an attempt to reimpose a 2/3 vote requirement on all tax increases by the Washington State Legislature if they vote to suspend or repeal Initiative 960.  It also applies to any effort to repeal  any under performing tax exemptions. Initiative 960 was narrowly passed by the voters two years ago,  getting just 51.24% of the vote. An earlier version of the 2/3 voting requirement was passed by voters in 1993 by a similarly narrow margin.  I-601 only received a yes vote of 51.21%.

The Washington State Constitution says that in the first two years after an initiative passes, the State legislature can only amend or repeal the initiative by a 2/3 vote.  After two years it can do this with a simple majority vote. The Washington State Legislature is expected to either repeal or suspend the provisions of Initiative 960 in order to raise revenue without a 2/3 vote. Such legislation is currently working its way through the Legislature.  The Senate has passed it’s version to suspend I-690 for two years.  SB 5843

The state currently faces an additional $2.7 billion shortfall in covering its current 2 year budget. Because of the inability to get two thirds of the Legislature to support revenue increases last year, they adopted an all cuts budget. This year if they amend or repeal I-960, they can adopt revenue increases with a simple majority.

Initiative 1053 is unconstitutional because it is trying to change provisions in the Washington State Constitution. Initiatives can not amend the Washington State Constitution.  That requires a 2/3 vote of the Legislature and a vote of the people. It is a very high hurdle to pass and one very unlikely to ever impose a 2/3 vote for the Legislature to pass bills. It is meant to not be an easy process.

Article II, Section 21 of the Washington State Constitution states that “No bill shall become law unless on its final passage the vote be taken as to yeas and nays,  … and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.”

So technically I-960 is unconstitutional as would be I-1053. The State Supreme Court has so far declined to rule on I-960 syaing it is an internal matter for the State Legislature to act on.

Another way to look at the number is that Initiative 960 currently allows a minority of one third of the members of either house of the state legislature to overrule the votes of two thirds of the state legislators. Either 34 members out of 98 in the House or 17 members out of 49 in the Senate can prevent revenue increases or repeal of under-performing tax exemptions.

A no vote in either House by a one third minority of its members can overrule any majority yes vote unless the yes vote in both houses exceeds two thirds.

see also ‘Are supermajorities in the Legislature unconstitutional? in Crosscut by Daniel Jack Clausen
“Republicans back Eyman’s newest scheme” in Federal Way Mirror by Andrew Villeneuve

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