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June 14, 2006

State will appeal Eyman initiative case

Posted by David Postman at 4:18 PM

Attorney General Rob McKenna just announced he will appeal Tuesday's ruling by King County Superior Judge Mary Roberts that threw out Tim Eyman's Initiative 747.

In making his announcement, McKenna said the "ruling is disturbing in two ways." My quick, non-lawyerly read is that one of those is more compelling than the other.

McKenna's statement says the decision "overturns the will of the people." Well, that happens. And the state Supreme Court has upheld lower court decisions that invalidated initiatives. Even a lot of votes don't solve constitutional problems.

McKenna says the second reason is that Roberts "sets an impossible hurdle for those seeking to exercise their constitutional right to initiative." Roberts said the initiative was unconstitutional because it amended a property tax law that had been amended itself by an earlier Eyman initiative, I-722. But in the time between when I-747 was drafted and voters had their say, I-722 was ruled unconstitutional — see a pattern with Eyman's initiatives? — and that meant the new initiative was amending a law that no longer existed.

State attorneys argued before Roberts, and now will do the same at the Supreme Court, that it's impossible for initiative sponsors to be able to predict what would happen to underlying laws in the months that pass between drafting an initiative and the fall vote.

"Penalizing voters because the initiative drafters failed to predict whether or not I-722 would be upheld is bad public policy that severely damages the people's power of initiative," McKenna said.

And that doesn't just worry initiative writers. Legislative staff is worried, too, state assistant attorney general Jim Pharris told me this morning. He had already gotten calls from legislative staff worried about how Roberts' ruling might affect their work.

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