State Supremes Rule Super Majority Unconstitutional

Perhaps you, too, heard talk radio rants today about the state Supreme Court “legislating from the bench!” and goin’ all activist on us when they struck down the super majority legislative rule that Washington voters have approved five times. In a 6-3 decision, the court said the requirement violates the state constitution.

The question before the court wasn’t, “Are the voters right?” or, “Is a super-majority a good idea?”

The question was, “Is requiring a two-thirds vote to pass a bill constitutional?” They said no. Why? Because they can read the Washington State Constitution.  So can you. Here’s Article II, Section 22:

SECTION 22 PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor. 

Kaboom. Pretty straight forward.

If you loved Initiative 1053 or any of its predecessors, you will be pleased to know that Republicans on the Senate Ways & Means Committee had a constitutional amendment ready to go as soon as–and probably before–the ruling was handed down. Senate Resolution 8205  amends the constitution to require a two-thirds vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to increase taxes or fees. (Ironically, it did not need a super majority to move forward in committee, though amending the constitution does require a two-thirds vote of each chamber, as I recall…..) 

Next for SR 8205? A trip through the Rules committee to the Senate floor. If it can get a super-majority vote, then it’s on to the House where it’s future might reasonably be predicted to be none too rosy. Time will tell.

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About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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