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September 7, 2007

Court rejects intiative challenge

Posted by David Postman at 9:14 AM

The state Supreme Court this morning unanimously rejected a challenge to Tim Eyman's latest anti-tax initiative. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, the court ruled against an environmental group and a labor union that wanted Secretary of State Sam Reed to keep Initiative 960 off the November ballot.

The court, in upholding a ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer, said it would not "review the validity of the challenged
provisions of I-960 prior to the November 2007 general election."

Preelection review of initiative measures is highly disfavored. The fundamental reason is that "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." Given the preeminence of the initiative right, pre-election challenges to the substantive validity of initiatives are particularly disallowed. Such review, if engaged in, would involve the court in rendering advisory opinions, would violate ripeness requirements, would undermine the policy of avoiding unnecessary constitutional questions, and would constitute unwarranted judicial meddling with the legislative process.

Futurewise and the Service Employees International Union filed suit to challenge the initiative's referendum provisions and the requirement for a supermajority vote of the Legislature for tax increases, which they claimed would be in effect change the state Constitution. The court wrote:

Neither of appellants' challenges is subject to preelection review. I-960 does not purport to amend the constitution, whatever its practical "effect" may be.

ADD: Here's the initiative.

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