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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin 2: Is future bleak for 2/3rds super majority?

Efforts to convince, cajole or coerce the Legislature into sending voters a constitutional amendment requiring taxes be raised by a two-thirds majority may not be dead, but they are likely on life support after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.

The unanimous court said Tim Eyman’s plan to make the Legislature choose between accepting a cut in the sales tax or passing on to voters a pre-written amendment violates a basic constitutional principle against “log rolling.” That’s a term for putting two unrelated things into a single piece of legislation, so supporters of each create the majority needed to pass. One could call it mutual backscratching, but logrolling has a much more outdoorsy feel.

If the initiative were to stand, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen said, it could usher in a whole new way of changing the constitution by giving the Legislature a choice between accepting something really bad or sending a new amendment to the voters. 

It’s an interesting concept that people from both ends of the political spectrum might employ to get something that’s eluded them for years.

Democrats who have opposed tax super majority proposals for years felt vindicated by the decision. Republicans, not so much, saying they’ve kept faith with voters by trying to pass the amendment ever since the court said that’s the only way it would be legal.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, did take a half step toward the middle, repeating a suggestion from the 2016 session. What about a constitutional amendment that requires voters to approve any new tax increase by a simple majority unless it passes the Legislature with a 60 percent approval in both chambers.

It wouldn’t quite overcome the argument that a minority in one chamber could thwart the will of the majority of both chambers. But the 60 percent majority is required for certain voter-approved taxes, like bond issues, and it could generate some discussions.

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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