Chief Justice Gerry Alexander
OLYMPIA -- The Washington Supreme Court waved through a controversial ballot title aimed at requiring a two-thirds majority for state tax increases in a high-profile ruling Friday.
In Futurewise vs. Reed (docket# 80430-3) the Supreme Court ruled against an environmental group and a trade union challenging the constitutionality of ballot title I-960. The two organizations were trying to keep the question off the ballot this November.
The Supreme Court opinion concurred with King County Superior Court Judge Catherine D. Shaffer's ruling two months ago for the Secretary of State. The top bench ruled unanimously that such challenges against ballot initiatives are "not subject to pre-election review," wrote Chief Justice Gerry Alexander.
"While the disputed sections of the initiative may be subject to constitutional challenge, if passed, the initiative does not exceed the scope of the legislative power," Alexander wrote. "The initiative therefore may be placed on the general election ballot."
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna hailed the ruling as "a win for the people of Washington state." McKenna's office represented Secretary of State Sam Reed in the action by Futurewise and Service Employees International Union.
"The initiative and referendum process is an important right," McKenna said in a statement released Friday. "The Supreme Court has upheld our contention that the voters should have their say before it is time to challenge the constitutionality of the measure."
The Supreme Court brought to bear the long history of citizens' referenda in Washington's political culture. "The right of initiative is nearly as old as our constitution itself, deeply ingrained in our state's history, and widely revered as a powerful check and balance on the other branches of government," Alexander quoted an earlier SC ruling.
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