Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Supreme Court To Hear I-960 Arguments

While campaigns and elections dominate the news and our attention, a critically important legal case is coming up in the state Supreme Court. On Sept. 9th, the court will hear the case brought by Sen. Lisa Brown challenging the constitutionality of I-960's requirement that a 2/3 vote of the Legislature be required to raise taxes.

I-960, adopted by the voters last fall, was the latest tomfoolery from professional demagogue Tim Eyman. It's genesis was I-601, adopted by the voters 15 years ago, which also included a super majority requirement of the Legislature to raise taxes. I-601 was challenged in court, but the court sidestepped the big issue -- can a super majority requirement be imposed on the Legislature by initiative, or does that require a constitutional amendment.

Richard Roesler of the Spokesman Review recently wrote an excellent piece that provides the background, as well as the crux of the legal argument, about this latest court case. Roesler does a better job of explaining the relevant issues than I could, so I'm not going to rehash it here. Instead, I'll just encourage you to read his article.

The thing I learned over the past year was that just because you take a case to the Supreme Court, doesn't mean you get an answer to your question. In any given case it hears, the court is rather adept at issuing a ruling based on a technicality or secondary issue without tackling the big, fundamental (and controversial) questions. It appears (from my uneducated perspective) that Sen. Brown's case was cleverly crafted, leaving the court with little alternative but to answer the fundamental question: is imposing a super majority requirement on the Legislature by initiative constitutional?

Of course, if the court rules I-960 is unconstitutional, Tim Eyman might have to get a real job and, what with the struggling economy and all, there isn't a real big demand for professional liars right now. -- Dennis

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