Sept. 12 Daily News editorial
Washington Initiative 1185 — occupying its usual position on the November ballot — is unusual in that court proceedings could render it moot either before or after state voters give it their customary support.
We use the words "usual" and "customary" because state voters have seen this measure, or measures very much like it, several times in the past.
I-1185 reimposes a law approved by state voters on four other occasions requiring a two-thirds majority in both houses of the state Legislature or a "yes" vote in a statewide referendum in order to approve a tax increase. It goes farther than some of its predecessors in that it covers fees as well as taxes. A recent statewide survey conducted by Seattle pollster Stuart Ellway indicates that 56 percent of respondents intend to vote in favor.
We'll also have our eye on the State Supreme Court, where Sept. 25 is the day when oral arguments will be heard on whether or not supermajority requirements are compliant with the state's constitution. Twelve state senators and representatives (all Democrats) are co-signatories on this suit and they won their first round in May when a King County Superior Court judge ruled that such laws "violate the simple majority provision" of the constitution.
We don't know enough constitutional law to predict how the Supreme Court will rule. We understand opponents' contentions that supermajority requirements give minorities greater ability to block legislation. If 34 people in a voting body of 100 can stymie a bill favored by the remaining 66, a case can be made that all the "no" voters have, in effect, almost two votes.
For our part, we support I-1185 because state voters have said time and again that they want it. The first "two-thirds" measure was approved by voters in 1993 and similar propositions were also approved in 1997, 2007 and 2010.
Legislators have tended to grudgingly honor the results of these votes for two years before discarding them after the passed initiatives are less protected by state law.
For the first two years following voter approval, only supermajority votes in both legislative houses can set an approved initiative aside. After two years, a simple majority is sufficient. That's why it keeps coming back.
This is the point in the discussion where supermajority opponents tend to point out that campaigns in favor of "two-thirds" are usually well financed by business interests and wealthy individuals while those opposed often have difficulty getting their case in front of the public due to lack of cash. Such will be the case again this year.
While this theory may assist in helping explain voting patterns, we don't feel it justifies nullifying the decision of the electorate.
Until and unless the Supreme Court puts an end to the debate, we'll stand with the majority.
Voters want this requirement and have stated their desire for it on numerous occasions. We'd like to see our Legislators try living with it rather than waiting it out and resuming business as usual in Olympia.
Our vote on I-1185 is "yes."