Washington State Emergency
It’s a lot easier to make up rules for honest people than for dishonest people. That’s what Tim Eyman and other supporters of the Saving I-601 referendum must be thinking.
Back in 1993, Washington state’s voters passed Initiative 601, which requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses of the Legislature to raise taxes. It also limits state spending growth to inflation plus population growth. But this year, the legislature passed a bill busting the spending limits and allowing tax hikes by simple majority vote.
It’s not respectful of Washington voters, but it was within the Legislature’s power under the state’s constitution. Of course, citizens likewise have the power to put the Legislature’s action to a referendum, a vote of the people.
That’s where legislators decided to play fast and loose with the constitution. They labeled their change to the voter-enacted spending restraints “emergency” legislation.
So, when a referendum to stop the Legislature from gutting I-601 was filed, the Secretary of State rejected it. Citizens went to court. But the court ruled that the Legislature may suspend referendums whenever it wants, on the grounds of “the immediate preservation of the public peace . . . and its existing public institutions.”
Justice Richard Sanders, in a sharp dissent, called the court “openly hostile to the people’s check on the Legislature.”
Because reformers are reasonable and responsible, when they put restraints on government they provide for emergencies, so in a disaster the Legislature would be free to act. But politicians are not reasonable. Their behavior is regularly crooked. Maybe not in the criminal sense, but in every other.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.