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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

House rejects fast track for super majority amendment

OLYMPIA -- A proposed constitutional amendment in the House to require two-third approval for any state tax increase will have to go through the normal committee process.

An effort by House Republicans to allow the amendment to skip a committee hearing and come up for a floor vote failed late Monday morning on a 49-48 party line vote. To make such a leap in the legislative process, the motion needed two-thirds approval.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, argued a hearing wasn't necessary because voters have passed some version of a two-thirds majority for tax increases six different times.

"The public has had an opportunity to speak on it," Orcutt said. "We don't need to go through the committee process."

But Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said the ballot measure the proposed amendment after which the proposed amendment is patterned, I-1366, never went through the legislative process. The amendment should be referred to the House Finance Committee, which handles tax measures, he said.

The concept of a two-thirds majority for any tax increase has strong support among legislative Republicans, and some support among conservative Democrats in the two bodies. The concept has been repeatedly passed by voters through ballot initiatives, usually from sponsor Tim Eyman. In 2013, the state Supreme Court said it can't be approved by an initiative, only by a constitutional amendment. That process must begin in the Legislature, where it must receive two-thirds approval in both chambers before being sent to the general election ballot.

Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Pierce County, said that while he has supported some super majority measures in the past, he didn't support I-1366 or Monday's effort to skip ahead in the legislative process because he viewed it as "clearly unconstitutional" and a vehicle for Eyman to raise money for the campaign.

Last week, a King County Superior Court judge ruled I-1366, which would have reduced the state sales tax by 1 cent per dollar if the Legislature did not send a super majority amendment to the November ballot, was unconstitutional.

Here's how Spokane-area representatives voted on the motion to bring HJR 4215 to the floor without a committee hearing: Republicans Mary Dye, Jeff Holy, Joel Kretz, Bob McCaslin, Kevin Parker,Joe Schmick, Matt Shea and Shelly Short voted yes; Democrats Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli voted no.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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