Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Supreme Court hearing . . .

I drafted this post on Monday and then did not hit publish.  A little late, but the content is still interesting.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the day when the State Supreme Court will hold a hearing on whether the two-thirds vote necessary to raise taxes is constitutional.  In this Seattle Times article State Representative Jaime Pederson suggests that the court’s decision holds the key to whether or not the legislature can meet the funding requirements imposed on them in the McCleary case.

The other possible solution, Pedersen says, is to "cut the heck out of everything else" the state spends money on: health care for the needy, disability payments, the state Ecology Department, state parks, state colleges and universities, student scholarships and the arts.
"I can't imagine how you could get 50 votes to do those things," let alone two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature, he said.
He predicted the eventual outcome, if the Supreme Court does not give the Legislature back the power to raise taxes and close loopholes, would be a failure to answer the McCleary challenge.

From the League of Education Voters I followed a link to this article by three Seattle attorneys who filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the League of Women Voters.  I enjoyed reading the article. It was brief and helped me understand, from their view, the main issue facing the court.

One phrase in particular is central to the Court’s decision and to the validity of the Two-Thirds Rule: the provision in Article II, Section 22 of the State Constitution that “[n]o bill shall become a law unless . . . a majority” votes in its favor. A plain reading of that provision, written in 1899, clearly indicates that any bill that receives a simple majority vote shall become law. And in fact, that’s exactly what the plaintiffs argued—and again, the trial court agreed.

The proponents of the two-thirds rule argue that the phrase creates only a minimum, but not a maximum threshold.  In the article the attorneys share why they believe that the framers clearly intended for it to be a maximum necessary to enact a law.  Whatever the court rules I am sure we have not heard the last from Tim Eyeman and others and others on this issue.  In the Times article State Senator Janea Holmquist Newbry has promised in the next session to propose a constitutional amendment to make the two-thirds vote permanent.  This makes for a great civics lesson.  It will also determine how the legislature and new governor will respond to the court’s funding mandate and the education reforms currently in place and planned. 

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