Washington SC rejects tax limits challenge

Chris Rizo Mar. 6, 2009, 12:24pm

Mary Fairhurst

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-The Washington state Supreme Court has rejected a state lawmaker's challenge of voter-approved tax increase limits.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, filed an appeal challenging two initiatives that say tax increases need to muster supermajority approval from state lawmakers before they may be enacted.

Brown filed the lawsuit during last year's legislative session, after the upper house couldn't get the required two-thirds vote for a proposed 42-cent-per-liter surcharge on state liquor sales.

She argues the supermajority requirement enacted by voters last year is illegal since the rule goes against the simple majority threshold outlined in the state's constitution.

The state's highest court disagreed Thursday, ruling that the challenge was best suited for the Legislature, not the courts, to address.

"Intervention of this court into an intrahouse dispute over a parliamentary ruling to compel the president of the Senate to perform a discretionary duty would be a grave violation of separation of powers," Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote for the court.

The justices also declined to say whether the law was constitutional.

"Just as the Legislature may not go beyond the decree of the court when a decision is fair on its face, the judiciary will not look beyond the final record of the Legislature when an enactment is facially valid, even when the proceedings are challenged as unconstitutional," Fairhurst wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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