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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Second challenge of order blocking I-976 filed with Supreme Court

OLYMPIA – A second legal maneuver aimed at allowing Initiative 976 to take effect this week and lower the cost of vehicle license tabs was filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court.

An attorney for Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier and four other Eastern Washington residents asked for an order to cancel a recent King County Superior Court injunction blocking the initiative and to bring the entire case directly to the Supreme Court for a final decision.

Attorney Stephen Pidgeon, of Everett, said the King County Superior Court should not have decided the case that was filed by local government officials on behalf of local voters who pay those judges’ salaries.

“The only impartial tribunal is the Supreme Court,” he said on the steps of the Temple of Justice a few minutes before filing what is technically a request for writ of mandamus.

Such a writ apparently has never been sought in a legal dispute over an initiative, Pidgeon said.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has already filed a request with the Supreme Court for an emergency appeal of the King County Superior Court ruling, arguing voters sent a clear message on reducing vehicle taxes and fees, which should start on Thursday when I-976 is scheduled to take effect. Final written arguments on that request are scheduled to be turned in by 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Pidgeon, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2012, said the request for a writ of mandamus makes some arguments that state attorneys did not make in their appeal.

I-976 would remove many taxes and fees, which in some counties and for some vehicles can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of renewing an annual vehicle license tab. It passed in November with 1,055,749 yes votes compared to 936,751 no votes. The state certified the results of the general election Monday.

Although I-976 is described as a $30 tab initiative, the actual cost of tabs would be $43.25 because some service fees were not affected.

The state Department of Licensing says on its website that as long as the King County injunction remains in place, motorists renewing their tabs will pay all taxes and fees not affected by the initiative. Motorists renewing tabs due before Dec. 5 will pay those taxes and fees regardless of the status of the court case.