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Republican coalition turns up its nose at Supreme Court ruling

Despite a state Supreme Court ruling knocking down the 2/3rds supermajority rule, the Senate Republican coalition plans to block tax votes without a 2/3rds majority.
Under fire: a GOP Senator takes aim at the Supreme Court.

Under fire: a GOP Senator takes aim at the Supreme Court. Cacophony/Wikimedia Commons

Updated: 1:26 pm Thursday

The Republican-oriented majority in the Washington Senate says it has a plan to keep tax hikes on supermajority lockdown — despite Thursday's Supreme Court ruling nullifying the law that would have required a 2/3rds majority vote on new taxes.

Coalition leaders, who control which bills are brought to a full Senate vote, say they won't allow any tax bills to go to a floor vote of the Senate. The only exception would be when votes are counted in advance, and two-thirds say they will support a tax.

"We control the floor calendar. We won't let [a tax bill] come up for a vote unless the two-thirds are there," said Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina and leader of the 23-Republican-two-Democrat majority coalition.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who is also president of the Senate and arbiter of rules disputes, said he would have to check with his legal advisors about Tom's plan. He said he would not seek such advice until that situation actually happens — which is the traditional protocol.

"They [the majority coalition] would have to show me that does not violate the court's ruling.  ...You can't pass a rule to supercede a Supreme Court decision," Owen said.

When Tom and Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, switched to the Republican side of the Senate, they gave the GOP control of the Senate Rules Committee, which dictates which bills will be sent for a full Senate vote. The alliance also controls the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which dictates which budget bills will receive hearings and which will get votes to move on to the rules committee.

Tom plans to formally install that two-thirds rule to govern the Senate, saying that only a simple majority — 25 votes — is needed to enact that requirement. "The rules of the Senate are the rules," Tom said Thursday morning.

When asked if the proposed Senate rule violates Thursday's Supreme Court ruling, Tom replied that the court has no jurisdiction over the Senate's internal rulemaking because of the separation of powers. "They're a judicial body and we're a legislative body," he said.

On Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court issued its 6-3 ruling that requiring a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House to raise taxes is unconstitutional.

This would allow Democrats to raise taxes with a simple majority, at least in the House where that party dominates. The 24-member Democratic minority would have to swing one vote from the 23-Republican-two-Democrat anti-tax majority to pass a tax in that chamber. That is if the majority alliance does not impose its proposed two-thirds rule for a tax bill to reach the floor.

Republicans have used the two-thirds rule — required by four public initiatives — to stop Democratic attempts to raise taxes or close tax loopholes.

"Two-thirds is about impossible to get. This makes it more possible to get an agreement [with Republicans on budget issues]," said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

The decision is likely to set off sharp political fighting and calls for a constitutional amendment for two-thirds approval, which has been repeatedly passed by voters on Tim Eyman-sponsored ballot measures.
 
"I totally consider this a victory for my son, who is 12 years-old and in middle school," said Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. Jinkins' voice quivered as her eyes teared up. "Everything is about kids. I can work myself into a frenzy about this."

Jinkins is one of the architects — along with Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle — of legislative maneuvers to send the 2/3rds rule to the Supreme Court.

The rule has been an obstacle to Democrats trying to figure out how to raise roughly $1 billion in extra expenses to improve education as mandated by an early 2012 Supreme Court ruling.

Sens. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake — all Senate committee chairpersons supporting the supermajority rule — held a joint press conference with the Association of Washington Business, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Washington Farm Bureau to criticize the ruling.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 12:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Just amend the constitution. I think a 60% threshold would be better.

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 12:59 p.m. Inappropriate

No surprise here. The State Supreme Court is as predictable as Homer Simpson at a Winchell's shop. These are people voters chose, folks.

I'll address the coming blizzard of tax hikes the best way I can: Slash my own budget as deeply as possible. They can't tax what you don't spend. Also, we do have the right to vote "No" on things that cost us, such as school levies. See you in November, kids.

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 3:11 p.m. Inappropriate

Sen. Tom should let the people of Washington decide these issues. If they elect a Legislature that's majority Republican or majority Democratic, Tom should honor the decisions of the majority elected by the people. He appears to be trying to override this basic rule of representative democracy. Now that the Supreme Court has interpreted the state constitution on this matter, he needs to get in line with the law.

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 4:08 p.m. Inappropriate

The people of Washington already decided this issue -- they voted overwhelmingly to require a 2/3 vote to raise taxes.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 8:35 p.m. Inappropriate

A vote on an initiative is every bit as subject to judicial review as a vote of a legislature, or an executive order from a president or governor, is. That's what happened today. The system worked. The checks and balances established in the U.S. Constitution did their job.

ivan

Posted Fri, Mar 1, 7:21 a.m. Inappropriate

The US Constitution didn't enter into it.

dbreneman

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 4:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Senator Rodney Tom consistantly flaunts the laws. He ran as a Democrat in Washington State's 48th Legislative District and joined forces with the GOP in the Senate, allowing the Republicans to become the majority.

Perfidy is his middle name and he should be recalled.

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 4:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Haven't heard of any attempt by Tom's district to recall him. Perhaps you should let the people who voted for him decide whether or not they think he should be recalled.

Lincoln

Posted Sun, Mar 3, 9:53 p.m. Inappropriate

So now you people are saying that the Coalition is illegal? What law do you allege he "consistently flaunts" [sic] ?

simorgh

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 7:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Rodney never was a good negotiator.

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 10:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Tom should be run out if town. He is the worst kind go lying politician, don't hide who you are and what your plans really are until after the election. The worst kind of a betrayal to people who trusted you and voted for you.

jrt365

Posted Fri, Mar 1, 7:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Sens. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake — all Senate committee chairpersons supporting the supermajority rule — held a joint press conference with the Association of Washington Business, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Washington Farm Bureau to criticize the ruling.

Typical. Pointing fingers outward instead of asking the awkward question. Rob McKenna's job was to represent the people in that appellate proceeding. Obviously he failed.

Why aren't these politicians questioning whether the advocate did a good enough job, instead of only railing against "the ruling"? McKenna sports an "R" after his name, just as they do.

crossrip

Posted Sun, Mar 3, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

When the question boils down to money, ask first:
Where is the money to go?

Rightwing Answer: Steel for XL pipe and coal export, FRACKING the water supply. Drill baby drill gas/oil Gulf, both coasts, national parks, Alaskan reserve, Artic. Not much steel for rail. Some rail in wrong places, export terminals, West Hayden Island, Fresno; rightwing led agencies. Europe/Asian "disposable" car imports increase, jobs loss follows, exporting more trash. This is good spending? Naught.

Leftwing Answer: We're mispending like out of control overeducated jerks on a bore tunnel. OUR BAD!! MercerWest Waterfront plans, uh, also our bad! We don't do parks very well here?
Let's hope Lynn from YOUR state teaches OUR state jerks a lesson in humilty. Let US hope.

The Rightwing has jobs lined up for paycheck-giving to build the XL ETC CRAP. The first Keystone pipe segment is a defensible improvement to joint Okla/Tex basic operation. Extension further north is plainly unadvisable as a waste of resources, the steel better dedicated to non-Bombardier under 100mph rail routing, Bay Area Peninsula, the new LA routes, NOT what DOTs conjure up in the embarrassingly horrible state of Warshington. Gawd, you incredible smart as jerks have got this coming. birn

Wells

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