A reminder that Eyman initiatives have consequences: “WSF couldn’t afford to build new boats for a decade, due to fallout from a car tab cut in 2000”

Election PostmortemStatements & Advisories

It has been over twenty years since Tim Eyman’s Initiative 695 appeared before Washington voters, got challenged in court, and then reinstated by Governor Gary Locke and state legislators. But the consequences of I-695 continue to reverberate, as a story published by The Seattle Times this morning illustrates.

Titled “Why your ferry might be late — or canceled — this summer,” the article attempts to explain what’s behind the staffing and equipment problems at Washington State Ferries, the nation’s largest marine highway system.

WSF was among the biggest victims of I-695, as a passage late in the story notes:

WSF couldn’t afford to build new boats for a decade, due to fallout from a car-tab cut in 2000. New taxes since the mid-2010s are replenishing the budget. The next boat, a 144-car hybrid electric-diesel vessel, will begin construction soon at Vigor in Seattle, but won’t sail until 2024. The existing fleet is working past retirement age, and three vessels are at or approaching 60 years old.

“Any time a ferry goes down, it shutters the whole system,” [Ryan] Brazeau [a fourth-generation ferry worker and officer in the Inlandboatmen’s Union] said.

That “car tab cut in 2000” was the implementation of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 695.

Before its elimination, a portion of the statewide motor vehicle excise tax was specifically dedicated to the ferry capital construction account and the ferry operations account. When those dollars were shut off, WSF was put into a precarious position… a position that continues today. As the article notes, it took more than a decade for the Legislature to authorize the construction of any new ferries. The fleet is aging and WSF hasn’t been getting new boats into service fast enough to compensate for problems on the veteran ones.

It is too late to rectify this problem in the short term. The stage for this sorry situation was set long ago. But the Legislature and Governor Inslee can make sure the future is different. Washington State Ferries needs more than a shot in the arm to become healthy in the 2020s. It needs a robust, large, ongoing investment. It needs dedicated revenue.

Legislators should fund all of the new boats the system needs (let’s get some electric ferries!) and increase pay for ferry workers so WSF can address its staffing needs.

While the new boats will take time to build, the staffing problems ought to be more readily addressable. WSF has waited far too long for resources: it’s time to invest now in our marine transportation network, to ensure it can serve the needs of Washingtonians and people visiting Washington well into the future.

Also see: I-695’s devastating impact is no laughing matter

Nineteen Years: Founder’s Retrospective

Statements & Advisories

Today and throughout this month, Permanent Defense celebrates its nineteenth anniversary, marking one two hundred and twenty-eight months of continuous operation.

The past year was unquestionably one of the greatest and most successful years in the history of this project. The movement of people and organizations that Permanent Defense supports succeeded on all fronts — legislative, electoral, and judicial — in protecting Washington from bad ballot measures and holding bad actors like Tim Eyman accountable for their misdeeds.

After an eighteenth year that had its fair share of setbacks, we were ready for a change of pace.

And that’s exactly what we got.

Our nineteenth year was marked by a series of tremendous victories that will resonate for years. Like the final defeat of Tim Eyman’s I-976 in the Washington State Supreme Court. Or the overwhelming approval of Referendum 90, which preserved our comprehensive sexual health education law, last November. Or, just a few days ago, Judge James Dixon’s long-awaited ruling punishing Eyman for his serious violations of our public disclosure laws.

These and other wins have kept intact hard-won progress on a number of issues, from multimodal transportation funding to improved school curricula to meaningful enforcement of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Permanent Defense’s mission is to protect Washington by building a first line of defense against threats to the common wealth and Constitution of the Evergreen State. We ensure that when the right wing attempts to use the ballot to undo progressive policy advances, those efforts are promptly challenged. We know from experience that bad ballot measures take a lot of diligent work to knock down. Consequently, when facing a measure like I-976 or R-90, our top priority is always to support the swift organization of a broad and hopefully bipartisan coalition of like-minded Washingtonians to take that measure down.

Last year, when comprehensive sexual health education came under attack, we sprang into action, and collaborated with our friends at Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and many other organizations to ensure R-90 would be met with a strong response. The Safe & Healthy Youth Washington coalition did a tremendous job uniting Washingtonians in support of sex ed. The result was a landslide electoral victory that left our opposition utterly dumbfounded. The likes of Loren Culp are on record as questioning the legitimacy of the election results not because Democrats won up and down the ballot, but because Safe & Healthy Youth Washington won so overwhelmingly.

The outcome was not a surprise to us, for we knew from NPI’s research that voters in Washington State support comprehensive sexual health education. It was our job as a coalition to tap into that support and unite Washingtonians around an Approve R-90 position, taking nobody’s vote for granted. We did that, and we showed our opposition just how out of touch they are with the voters.

In addition to decisively winning the battle over R-90, we succeeded in our efforts to support the lawsuits aimed at overturning Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive I-976 and forcing Eyman to answer for his egregious violations of our public disclosure laws. Eyman’s gubernatorial campaign also ended spectacularly in failure in the August 2020 Top Two election, putting an end to his ambition to be Governor Jay Inslee’s general election opponent.

Our work is never done, because the right wing will always seek to roll back the progress we have made. However, we now have almost two decades of experience providing vigorous, year-round opposition to their bad ideas. We’ll continue to put that experience to use to protect Washington in the years ahead. Your support enables us to continue our essential work.

Enjoy the following chronology of my favorite moments from our nineteenth year.

Voters put the kibosh on Tim Eyman’s gubernatorial bid

August 4th, 2020

On August 3rd, Tim Eyman’s eight month long gubernatorial campaign ended in embarrassing failure when Eyman — who had repeatedly bragged that he would be more than a match for incumbent Democratic Governor Jay Inslee — finished with a meager 6.41% of the vote, well behind both Republicans Joshua Freed and Loren Culp. Eyman’s campaign failed to carry a single county, not even east of the Cascades. (Raul Garcia, another Republican who performed even worse statewide than Eyman, was able to carry tiny Adams and tiny Garfield counties.)

Eyman initially had little to say about the election results. Within a few days, however, he issued an enthusiastic and ringing endorsement of Loren Culp, and proceeded to start making campaign appearances in support of Culp with his daughter Riley. Culp went on to get clobbered in the November 2020 general election, garnering just 43.12% of the vote.

Tim Eyman campaign sign with abandoned chair
An empty office chair parked next to a Tim Eyman campaign sign in Whatcom County. Tim Eyman was infamously caught on camera in 2019 stealing a chair from a Lacey Office Depot. (Photo: Renee L. Miller)

Supreme Court rules I-976 unconstitutional in its entirety

October 15th, 2020

A few weeks into autumn, the Washington State Supreme Court delivered its verdict on Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, finding the measure unconstitutional in its entirety.

Writing for the Court, Justice Steve Gonzalez held: “Initiative Measure 976 contains more than one subject, and its subject is not accurately expressed in its title. Accordingly, it is unconstitutional.”

I-976 had previously been blocked from taking effect thanks to an injunction issued by King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson, which the Supreme Court had repeatedly left in place.

The Supreme Court’s decision ensures I-976 will never be implemented, upholding our Constitution and protecting Washingtonians’ freedom of mobility.

The successful conclusion of the legal challenge against I-976, Garfield County v. State, marked the end of a more than two year effort to defeat Tim Eyman’s latest attempt to destroy multimodal transportation infrastructure in Washington State.

Victory: I-976 struck down!
This victory banner, featuring photography from NPI’s staff, depicts a northbound Amtrak Cascades train rolling towards Vancouver, B.C. along the shoreline in North Seattle right at sunset.

Referendum 90 is approved in a landslide

November 3rd, 2020

The electoral work of the Safe & Healthy Youth Washington ended in resounding success in the November 2020 general election with the lopsided approval of Referendum 90, which kept Washington’s comprehensive sexual health education law intact. 57.82% of Washington voters who participated in the election voted to keep the law, with only 42.18% voting to reject it.

Safe & Healthy Youth Washington Campaign Logo
Dozens of organizations joined the Safe & Healthy Youth Washington coalition to protect comprehensive sex ed across Washington State

Right wing fails to qualify Initiative 1109

December 31st, 2020

As 2020 ended, a second attempt to overturn Washington State’s comprehensive sexual health education law also collapsed: Initiative 1109. I-1109 — an initiative to the Legislature for 2020 — sought to replace CSHE with “opt-in sexual health education programs only” for a subset of students (specifically those in grades five to twelve).

School districts would have been required to offer curriculum that “confirms with the values of the parents or legal guardians and the families in their community” — an absurd an impossible mandate given that families in Washington have different values.

No signatures were submitted in support of the measure by the deadline, resulting in the end of another threat to comprehensive sexual health education in Washington State.

Eyman’s day of reckoning finally arrives

February 10th, 2021

Five days before Permanent Defense’s nineteenth anniversary, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon issued his long-awaited ruling in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman Fair Campaign Practices Act enforcement case. Judge Dixon ruled that Eyman had committed multiple egregious violations of the FCPA and fined him $2.6 million for his lawbreaking. Dixon also barred Eyman from continuing to engage in financial chicanery in the future by taking away his ability to direct and control money as the officer of a political committee.

The ruling marked the first time in over two decades that Eyman was meaningfully held accountable for disregarding Washington State’s public disclosure laws in his never-ending efforts to dupe voters into destroying funding for the essential public services that make Washington great.

Justice is Served Upon Tim Eyman
Justice at last! Permanent Defense’s victory banner celebrating a successful outcome in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman case.

Inspired by Permanent Defense’s nineteen year track record of taking on right wing initiatives and getting results? Donate to Permanent Defense PAC now to keep Washington safe from threats to its Constitution and common wealth

NPI on Judge Dixon’s decision in State v. Eyman: Justice is finally served

In the Courts

Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ordered dishonest initiative promoter Tim Eyman to pay $2.6 million for serious violations of Washington State’s public disclosure laws and entered an order enjoining Eyman from having financial control over political committees.

The long-awaited decision comes nearly four years after Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit seeking to hold Eyman accountable for the violations, which were investigated by the Public Disclosure Commission following a complaint from Washingtonians For Ethical Government’s Sherry Bockwinkel.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who serves on WFEG’s board with Bockwinkel, thanked Dixon for a well-reasoned, calmly delivered, dispassionate ruling.

“Justice was served today… long, long overdue justice,” said Villeneuve.

“Tim Eyman has been fined before. He has been found guilty of violations of Chapter 42.17A RCW before. But he has never been held accountable like this.”

“After decades of evading accountability, Eyman has finally been sentenced to a punishment that our team believes fits his crimes. Our Permanent Defense project, which fights destructive initiatives like those Eyman sponsors, is about to turn nineteen on Monday, February 15th. I could not think of more befitting news as we approach that anniversary than this thoughtfully delivered ruling. Our team at NPI is elated.”

“Washington State’s public disclosure laws serve the public interest. What we know today as Chapter 42.17A was created by the very initiative process Tim Eyman says he cherishes. But for too long, Tim Eyman has made a mockery of our public disclosure laws.”

“Now, Tim must face the consequences for his choices. Today, February 10th, 2021, his lying and cheating truly caught up with him. The circumstances he finds himself in are of his own making. He needs only to look in the mirror if he wants to know who to blame for these events.”

“As Judge Dixon said, the relief he’s granting won’t stop Tim Eyman from participating in Washington State politics, and it isn’t meant to. However, the days when Eyman could fly solo and simply disregard the law without consequences and oversight are over. Eyman is a serial offender, and is entirely appropriate that he be barred from engaging in financial chicanery in the future. We expect Eyman may appeal Judge Dixon’s decision, and if that happens, we hope it will be sustained on appeal.”

Washingtonians For Ethical Government boardmember Sherry Bockwinkel, who filed the original complaint, thanked the petitioners who blew the whistle on Eyman and his buddy Eddie Agazarm, the masterminds behind the scheme to divert funds from Initiative 1185 (which concerned restating an unconstitutional two-thirds requirement to pass revenue bills) to Initiative 517. Their evidence provided the basis for the complaint that was filed with the PDC.

“This is great news,” said Bockwinkel. “As I reflect on this ruling, I’m thinking of Steve Burdick and Miles Stanley and all the people who stepped forward to say ‘This is wrong!’ when Tim Eyman and Eddie Agazarm tried to cheat them in their efforts to qualify Initiative 517 to the ballot… a scheme that Eyman and Agazarm hoped would allow them to qualify initiatives more easily and cheaply in the future.”

“Petitioners should be justly and fairly compensated for the work they do, and enjoy the same protections under Washington’s worker protection laws as anyone else. Judge Dixon’s ruling today affirmed that our public disclosure laws have meaning. Now let’s ensure our worker protection laws have meaning, too. We’re in the midst of a pandemic — there’s no better time to ensure petitioners are treated respectfully by the people who employ them.”

Understanding State of Washington v. Tim Eyman

In the Courts

Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon is expected to release his ruling in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman case, No. 17-2-01546-34, which concerns serious violations of Washington State’s public disclosure laws.

During his more than twenty years of political involvement, initiative promoter and failed gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman has consistently tried to conceal the extent of his fundraising and electioneering from the public, in flagrant violation of RCW Chapter 42.17A, the public disclosure law that voters originally approved by initiative back in the 1970s.

Through the long-running case No. 17-2-01546-34, Attorney General Bob Ferguson is seeking to hold Eyman accountable for these violations.

Below is a Q&A about the case that delves into its history and debunks some of the disinformation that Eyman has been putting out in an effort to evade responsibility for his wrongdoing.

Q: How did this case get started, and what is it about? 

A: The case dates back to the summer of 2012, when Eyman’s opponents noticed he was trying to qualify an initiative on initiatives to the Washington State Legislature (meaning, an initiative that would actually change several RCWs pertaining to qualifying initiatives and collecting signatures for initiatives). One of Eyman’s opponents, Washingtonians For Ethical Government‘s Sherry Bockwinkel, filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission asserting that Eyman’s stealthy I-517 effort violated Washington State’s public disclosure law. I-517 went on to qualify as an initiative to the Legislature, and eventually ended up on the ballot. In the meantime, the PDC opened an investigation into Eyman’s initiative factory that ran for over two years. The investigation was concluded in September 2015, with PDC staff and commissioners having found multiple serious violations. Commissioners voted to refer the case to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office for further investigation. Ferguson’s office spent a year and a half continuing the investigation before suing Eyman in March of 2017.

Q: What was I-517?

It was an initiative that sought to lengthen the timeframe for gathering signatures on initiatives and give petitioners special privileges in state law that no one else would have, allowing them to have access to venues like Lumen Field (formerly CenturyLink Field) for the purpose of collecting signatures. The overriding objective of I-517 was to make it easier and cheaper for Eyman to qualify initiatives to the ballot in the future. I-517 was fought by a well-organized, bipartisan opposition coalition that included progressive and business groups. Voters overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 517 in November of 2013 in what remains Eyman’s biggest ever electoral defeat if you go by the percentage of No votes the measure received.

Q: Why didn’t Eyman want the public to know he was trying to qualify I-517?

A: Primarily because he was using money raised for another initiative campaign to fund the measure’s signature drive. That other campaign was for I-1185, which appeared on the ballot in November of 2012, but which had its signature drive in the spring of 2012. I-1185 restated the unconstitutional scheme subjecting revenue bills to a two-thirds vote of the Washington State Legislature, in violation of Article II, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution. I-1185 and its predecessors were subsequently invalidated in League of Education Voters v. State, a landmark Supreme Court decision handed down in 2013. Eyman knew that many business groups liked the idea of empowering legislative Republicans to effectively have an unconstitutional veto over any bill that would increase state revenue, and he went to them asking for funds to get I-1185 on the ballot. He got what he needed, and then some. Several business groups liked the idea of I-1185 and wanted to financially support it, but didn’t fully trust Eyman, so they set up their own PAC to funnel money directly to signature gathering company Citizen Solutions. What they did not appreciate was that Citizen Solutions and Eyman were joined at the hip, and that some of their money was going to end up in Eyman’s pockets anyway.

Q: How did Eyman’s opposition realize he was diverting money from one campaign to another?

A: By talking to people and doing some simple arithmetic. We have long tracked the goings-on in the mostly unregulated signature gathering industry, and we noticed there was a paid drive taking place for I-517, but did not find corresponding paperwork for I-517 filed with the Public Disclosure Commission like it should have been. Paid signature gatherers expect to be paid for their labor… they don’t work for free, so someone was paying them to gather signatures for I-517. Tim Eyman has a history of diverting funds raised for one thing for another — in the early 2000s, he helped himself to campaign donations and then lied about that — and we concluded that was likely happening again. Since petitioners are paid by the signature in Washington State, we were able to calculate approximately what the I-1185 signature drive cost. From talking to some of the petitioners, we learned what the going rate was for an I-1185 signature, and from talking to the Secretary of State, we knew how many signatures had actually been turned in by Eyman and his sidekicks. The total amount of money raised for I-1185 in the spring of 2012 far exceeded what we calculated the actual cost of the signature drive was, resulting in a sizable profit for Eyman and his buddies at Citizen Solutions, Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm. Evidence uncovered during the investigations shows that Eyman and Agazarm were the scheming minds behind I-517. They chose to funnel a big portion of their windfall into a project that I-1185 funders were not consulted about, and had no knowledge of.

Q: How did I-1185’s funders feel about I-517?

A: Many felt betrayed. Eyman took money explicitly given for one initiative and then used it for another. Several business leaders are on record as saying they would not have given money to either Eyman or Citizen Solutions if they had known it would be used for I-517 instead of I-1185. Organizations like the Washington Food Industry Association (which represents family owned grocers and independent chains like PCC Community Markets) suffered the injustice of having their own money spent against them to qualify an initiative that they opposed, which they viewed as infringing on the private property rights of their members. After I-517 qualified, WFIA and the Northwest Progressive Institute (formerly on the opposite sides of I-1185) joined forces with the Northwest Grocery Association, Kroger, Walmart, the Washington Retail Association and others to build a strong opposition campaign to I-517, which, as mentioned, was a spectacular success.

Q: Okay, so the events that prompted this case happened in 2012 and 2013… why has it dragged on for so long?

A: Principally because Eyman wanted it to. It is quite evident that he doesn’t want to be held accountable for his wrongdoing. We have dubbed his legal defense strategy stonewalling in the extreme. At every turn, Eyman and his cohorts have been uncooperative, and have tried to obstruct investigators, first from the PDC and then from Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office. There are lots of ways to waste time and and drag out an investigation, and Eyman and his lawyers have used pretty much every tactic that we know of to run out the clock. The litany of excuses they’ve offered for noncompliance with subpoenas could fill a book. For much of the last few years, Eyman has been in contempt of court, racking up fines because he would not timely comply with discovery orders. This case could have been decided long ago if Eyman hadn’t stonewalled. The predicament he is in is of his own making.

Q: Tim Eyman says this case is an effort to persecute him and institute a lifetime ban on future political activity… what’s the real story?

A: To Tim Eyman, accountability feels like persecution, because Tim is used to operating above the law and getting away with it. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is asking Judge James Dixon to impose a large fine on Eyman and require that he be subjected to oversight/supervision in the future when directing and controlling money for a political committee. In other words, Eyman wouldn’t be able to continue to fly solo as he has for most of his political career, willfully disregarding our public disclosure laws. While Eyman tries to make it sound in his email missives like lots of other people are involved in his initiative factory, the reality is that he occupies every single key role. Eyman is the CEO, the President, the Chairman, the CMO, the COO, the CFO, and so on. He is the one and only decisionmaker. Everyone else is a subordinate, including his treasurers, who serve in a ministerial capacity (per an agreement reached with the state years ago, Eyman cannot serve as a campaign treasurer.) Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants that status quo to end, and for Eyman to have to get somebody else’s signoff before spending money on electioneering.

Q: Have there been other State of Washington v. Tim Eyman cases?

A: Yes, several… and they ended in default after Eyman didn’t bother to mount a defense.

NPI hails Supreme Court ruling striking down Eyman’s I-976

In the Courts

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 as unconstitutional, holding:

“I-976 violates article II, section 19 because it contains multiple subjects and an inaccurate ballot title.  Accordingly, we reverse in part and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Following the release of the opinion, Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve made the following statement.

“We took a long road to get here, but our multiyear effort to defeat Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive Initiative 976 has succeeded at last. Our team is thrilled. It’s truly a wonderful feeling to have prevailed.”

“Everyone in Washington State deserves freedom of mobility. The decision by the Washington State Supreme Court in Garfield County v. State both correctly upholds our Constitution and ensures that decades of bipartisan, voter-approved work will not be undone by a dishonestly worded, mean spirited ballot measure.”

“Vehicle fees are a key way in which we pool our resources to get things done, whether that’s providing intercity rail service with Amtrak Cascades, adding new ferries to our fleet, providing critical bus and paratransit service, or improving local streets and sidewalks so that people can safely get around their neighborhoods.”

“We’ve consistently said that the deceptive I-976 ballot title is a ‘blazing dumpster fire’, an analysis that was even cited during the oral argument back in June. Today, the Supreme Court agreed with us that the I-976 ballot title is inaccurate. Voters were not told the truth about what I-976 would do when asked to decide its fate. That’s unacceptable. While today’s decision rights that particular wrong, this is a recurring problem.”

“We sorely need a better process for developing ballot titles in our state. In 2021, the Northwest Progressive Institute will be asking our state legislators to revamp how titles are written, both to end the practice of ‘ballot title shopping’ and to ensure that measure titles use plainer language and do not deceive or mislead, not even unintentionally. We believe there ought to be many more sets of eyes on ballot titles than there are today during the drafting phase.”

“NPI thanks the City of Seattle, King County, and all of the plaintiffs represented by our friends at Pacifica Law Group for their fine work successfully challenging I-976. These are bad times, to be sure, but this is a great day for Washington State. Everyone wins from this decision, even people who voted for I-976.”

Tomorrow: State Supreme Court expected to rule on Tim Eyman’s I-976

In the Courts

Tomorrow, the Washington State Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in Garfield County Transportation Authority, et al. v. State of WA, et al., the legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976.

I-976, which appeared on the statewide ballot one year ago, is a measure sponsored by failed gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman that sought to inflict catastrophic damage on multimodal transportation investments in Washington by wiping out their funding.

Most Washingtonians did not return a ballot in the 2019 general election and thus never weighed in on I-976, but the measure passed anyway due to receiving more yes votes than no votes. However, it did not go into effect due to being promptly challenged in court.

Courts at both the trial and appellate level agreed to put I-976 on ice at the request of the plaintiffs contending that the measure is unconstitutional. Tomorrow’s decision will bring I-976 out of limbo one way or another: either the measure will be struck down, meaning it won’t ever be enforced, or it will go into effect and immediately cause catastrophic harm to Washington State’s communities at a time when underfunded essential public services are already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

If you plan to cover the ruling and its aftermath, please do right by your audience and discuss the ramifications from a community standpoint, not just an individual taxpayer’s standpoint. As a state, we rise and fall together; we pool our resources to get things done. No individual taxpayer, with the possible exception of the ultrawealthy like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, possesses the resources needed to undertake a project like rebuilding the West Seattle Bridge. But together, a project like that is something we can achieve.

Vehicle fees (car tabs) are one of the core ways we pay for roads, bridges, ferries, mass transit services like buses, trains, and paratransit, sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic safety, and law enforcement.

If vehicle fees in Washington end up getting gutted by I-976, as Tim Eyman intended, the consequences will be dire and far reaching. We will all lose if that scenario comes to pass…. even Washingtonians who voted for I-976 and feel vehicle fees are currently too onerous.

On the other hand, if I-976 is struck down, an important revenue source that is not as volatile as the sales tax will remain in place at a crucial time, keeping funding flowing to services like the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Ferries, Amtrak Cascades, and city road repair funds. This would be a just and fair outcome, particularly since voters were lied to by I-976 sponsor Tim Eyman and the I-976 ballot title (the language that appeared on the ballot as a representation of the measure) with respect to what the measure would do.

Below is a primer on the case.

The initiative

Initiative 976 was on the ballot in November of 2019.

It received 1,055,749 yes votes (23.44% of 4,503,871 registered voters at the time the election was certified) and 936,751 no votes (20.80% of 4,503,871 registered voters at the time the election was certified).

Information about the measure’s qualification to the ballot, the arguments for and against, and fiscal impact statement are available from our I-976 overview page. The measure’s text, in PDF, is also linked from that page.

The ballot title (what voters saw on their ballots) was as follows:

Initiative Measure No. 976 concerns motor vehicle taxes and fees.

This measure would repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

A substantive discussion of the defects in the ballot title is available from NPI’s Cascadia Advocate.

This discussion, which memorably referred to the I-976 ballot title as a “blazing dumpster fire” was cited by King County’s David Hackett, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, during oral argument before the Supreme Court.

The content of an initiative’s ballot title is very important. Because it is the only representation of an initiative that voters see on their ballots, it needs to be concise and truthful. The Constitution (Article II, Section 19) requires that bill and ballot titles expressly refer to their subjects. The same provision of the Constitution also limits bills and initiatives to a single subject to prohibit the practice of logrolling, which has a long history of use in the United States, and is legal at the federal level.

The lawsuit

The parties in the case (Garfield County Transportation Authority, et al. v. State of WA, et al.) are as follows:

GARFIELD COUNTY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY; KING COUNTY; CITY OF SEATTLE; WASHINGTON STATE TRANSIT ASSOCIATION; ASSOCIATION  OF WASHINGTON CITIES; PORT OF SEATTLE; INTERCITY TRANSIT; AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF WASHINGTON; and MICHAEL ROGERS,

Plaintiffs,

and

WASHINGTON ADAPT,

Intervenor-Plaintiff,

v.

STATE OF WASHINGTON,

Defendant,

and

CLINT DIDIER; PERMANENT OFFENSE, TIMOTHY D. EYMAN, MICHAEL FAGAN; JACK FAGAN; and PIERCE COUNTY,

Intervenor-Defendants.

The original complaint filed by the plaintiffs is available from NPI’s Cascadia Advocate.

The briefs submitted to the Supreme Court may be downloaded from courts.wa.gov:

The oral argument can be watched on TVW. It was conducted remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The alleged constitutional defects

The plaintiffs in Garfield County have alleged that I-976 violates the Constitution in nearly a dozen different ways.

Here are the alleged defects, as identified by the plaintiffs:

  1. Does I-976 violate article II, section 19 single subject requirements because it combines multiple subjects that are not germane to each other?
  2.  Does I-976 violate article II, section 19 subject in title requirements because its ballot title affirmatively misrepresents what the measure “would do” and does not include necessary subjects?
  3. Does I-976 violate article II, section 37 by amending existing statutes without setting the amendments forth in full, thereby resulting in confusion as to the effect of the new law?
  4. May unconstitutional provisions of an initiative be severed from the measure when they were included in the ballot title?
  5. Does I-976 violate article XI, section 12 by depriving municipal governments of vested local taxing authority for local purposes prior to expiration of the local tax?
  6. Does I-976 violate Washington’s separation of powers doctrine through legislative intrusion on the executive function of administering bond repayment?
  7. Does I-976 violate article VII, section 5 by diverting tax dollars from the purposes approved by local voters?

The plaintiffs must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I-976 contains one or more constitutional defects to prevail in their case.

King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson was persuaded that some provisions of I-976 (but not all) were unconstitutional; accordingly, he severed and struck down some of I-976’s clauses.

However, because his ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, and because the injunction he had previously issued keeping I-976 frozen was kept in place, his ruling did not change anything.

The Supreme Court will have the final word on I-976’s constitutionality, or lack thereof. Judge Ferguson’s prior ruling on I-976 is not binding on the Supreme Court. As we have seen, the Court has no qualms about overturning decisions reached by the state’s trial court judges, especially when it comes to the use of the instruments of direct democracy (the initiative, referendum, and recall).

For example, just this week, the Court nixed a recall against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Two years ago, the Court voided a ruling keeping the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s I-1639 off the ballot.

And a few years before that, the Court said that I-1240 (charter schools) was unconstitutional after a trial court had left it largely intact.

The ramifications

If I-976 is implemented, decades of bipartisan and often voter approved work to improve Washington State’s transportation system will be undone, and many essential public services will be gutted, unless replacement funding can be obtained.

You can use our NO on I-976 Impact Map (PDF) to visualize how the state could be negatively affected by a ruling implementing I-976.

The NO on I-976 website, built and hosted by NPI, remains available as well.

There, you can find fact sheets as well as a list of cities that use vehicle fees to fund local road maintenance and street improvements.

Research suggests voters are strongly opposed to cuts to transportation investments. An Elway poll from early 2020 found a robust majority in support of finding replacement funding to avert cuts due to implementation of I-976.

January 2020 Crosscut/Elway Poll

405 registered voters; margin of error +/-5% at the 95 confidence level; survey conducted December 26th-29th, 2019, with 29% of voters in King County, 50% elsewhere in Western Washington, 20% in Eastern Washington

QUESTION #9: As you probably know, voters recently approved Initiative 976 to cut car-tab fees, effectively reducing revenue for transportation and transit projects. In your opinion, should the Legislature now delay and cut projects to make up the lost revenue, or try to find a new way of raising money for transportation?

  • DELAY & CUT: 26%
  • FIND NEW REVENUE: 58%
  • NO OPINION: 16%

That’s more than a two-to-one margin in favor of new revenue.

Note that te I-976 ballot title said absolutely nothing about any cuts to projects. It only asked about cheap car tabs, and it made it sound like there would be no negative consequences to making car tabs cheap. Elway’s polling reinforces that people were not voting for cuts.

What about Sound Transit and the ST3 projects?

Sound Transit has said it believes that it will not be impacted by I-976 regardless of whether the Supreme Court finds I-976 constitutional or not. The agency is thus not a party in the legal challenge against I-976.

If Sound Transit is correct, tomorrow’s ruling won’t sabotage the work of expanding Link, Sounder, ST Express, and creating Stride bus rapid transit, even though other projects and services would suffer devastating financial losses.

Tim Eyman naturally disputes the agency’s interpretation of his initiative. However, Tim is not a lawyer, and it is well established that he does not understand the basics of drafting laws that can withstand legal and constitutional scrutiny.

NPI thanks coalition challenging I-976 following conclusion of oral argument in Garfield County v. State

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

Following the conclusion of oral argument in Garfield County Transportation Authority, et al. v. State of Washington, the legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, Northwest Progressive Institute founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve released the following statement thanking the plaintiffs and their attorneys for a job well done.

“Our team at the Northwest Progressive Institute is proud to stand with all of the plaintiff-appellants challenging Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive Initiative 976,” said NPI’s Andrew Villeneuve, who served on the NO on I-976 campaign’s organizing committee last year and has since written dozens of articles discussing the legal challenge to I-976.

“The coalition carrying on the noble fight against I-976 did a great job today summarizing the initiative’s many glaring constitutional defects, demonstrating once again that Tim Eyman is no more interested in drafting sound law than he was twenty years ago.”

“Attorneys Matthew Segal of Pacifica Law Group and David Hackett of King County were well prepared,” Villeneuve added. “They spoke confidently and lucidly, detailing the different ways that I-976 violates the Constitution, whether by combining multiple subjects (a violation of Article II, Section 19), amending existing statutes without setting the amendments forth in full (a violation of Article II, Section 37) or depriving municipal governments of vested local taxing authority (a violation of Article XI, Section 12).”

“The high point for us was unquestionably when David Hackett mentioned our scathing assessment of the I-976 ballot title, which my team and I have been calling a blazing dumpster fire. The I-976 ballot title is truly a flaming pile from top to bottom. It lacks context, it is badly worded, and worst of all, it is dishonest and deceptive… something a ballot title should never be, and in fact expressly not allowed to be.”

“Initiative ballot titles are supposed to accurately summarize a measure so that voters can understand what they’re being asked to say yes or no to.”

“With I-976, that didn’t happen. Voters were told in the I-976 ballot title that it would limit vehicle fees to thirty dollars and exempt voter approved charges, but the truth is I-976 doesn’t limit anyone’s vehicle fees to thirty dollars, nor does it spare ‘voter approved charges’ from being repealed. The initiative could be struck down just based on the problems with the ballot title, though I-976 has other defects as well.”

“There is only one prudent and defensible course of action in this case. We urge the Supreme Court to uphold our Constitution and invalidate I-976 in its entirety once it has finished considering the arguments presented by the parties.”

Understanding the I-976 legal challenge

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Garfield County Transportation Authority, et al. v. State of Washington, the legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, with a final ruling expected to follow in several months’ time, perhaps in the autumn of this year.

I-976 is the measure that voters considered and adopted last year that concerns transportation funding; I-976 was concocted to wipe out billions of dollars in funding for non-highway modes of transportation, which Eyman ideologically opposes investing in.

The case, No. 98320-8, seeks the complete invalidation of Initiative 976 on the grounds that it violates multiple provisions of the Washington State Constitution, including the single subject rule and the subject-in-title rule. The plaintiffs/appellants are Garfield County Transportation Authority, the City of Seattle, King County, the Washington State Transit Association, the Association of Washington Cities, the Port of Seattle, Intercity Transit of Thurston County, the Amalgamated Transit Union Legislative Council of Washington, and Michael Rogers.

The defendant/respondent is the State of Washington due to I-976’s passage last November by a submajority of Washington State voters.

(We user the term submajority because just 23.44% of the state’s then 4,503,871 registered voters voted for I-976, while 20.80% voted no and 55.76% did not vote at all.)

The intervenor-plaintiffs (appellants) are Washington Adapt, the Transit Riders Union, and Climate Solutions; the intervenor-defendants (respondents) are Clint Didier, Permanent Offense, Tim Eyman, Mike Fagan, Jack Fagan, and Pierce County.

Oral argument will be heard at 1:30 PM and will be broadcast on TVW.

The briefs filed for the Court’s consideration are available here:

The outcome of the legal challenge will determine whether I-976 ever goes into effect or not.

The State is currently barred from implementing the initiative by an injunction originally issued by King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson last November and subsequently sustained by the Washington State Supreme Court.

The Court will have the final word as to I-976’s constitutionality when it eventually rules.

The Court has previously struck down, in whole or in part, the following Eyman initiatives:

Appellants assert that I-976 is unconstitutional on multiple fronts, including on an Article II, Section 19 basis, and therefore must be struck down in its entirety. The major issues in the case, as identified by the appellants, are as follows:

  1. Does I-976 violate article II, section 19 single subject requirements because it combines multiple subjects that are not germane to each other?
  2.  Does I-976 violate article II, section 19 subject in title requirements because its ballot title affirmatively misrepresents what the measure “would do” and does not include necessary subjects?
  3. Does I-976 violate article II, section 37 by amending existing statutes without setting the amendments forth in full, thereby resulting in confusion as to the effect of the new law?
  4. May unconstitutional provisions of an initiative be severed from the measure when they were included in the ballot title?
  5. Does I-976 violate article XI, section 12 by depriving municipal governments of vested local taxing authority for local purposes prior to expiration of the local tax?
  6. Does I-976 violate Washington’s separation of powers doctrine through legislative intrusion on the executive function of administering bond repayment?
  7. Does I-976 violate article VII, section 5 by diverting tax dollars from the purposes approved by local voters?

The I-976 ballot title — which our team at NPI has previously characterized as a blazing dumpster fire — is likely to receive a lot of attention during today’s oral argument. Titles are the language that voters see on their ballots when they open them up to vote. The title is supposed to be a representative summary of the measure which ends in a question. The I-976 ballot title was as follows:

Initiative Measure No. 976 concerns motor vehicle taxes and fees.

This measure would repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Late last year, NPI published a lengthy discussion of the defects in the I-976 ballot title, which we believe resulted in voters being given incorrect information about what the measure would doThe post is available from NPI’s Cascadia Advocate.

(It is also worth noting that in addition to misrepresenting what the measure would do from a revenue perspective, the ballot title utterly failed to mention that the measure would have a destructive effect on a huge number of already approved transportation projects.)

While I-976’s deceptive ballot title was a huge asset to sponsor Tim Eyman during the campaign phase of the battle over I-976, it now appears to be a potentially fatal liability that could ensure the initiative never takes effect at all.

Though today’s oral argument will definitely be worth watching, it’s worth remembering that the written record is far more important. Attorneys who argue cases before the Supreme Court like to say that ninety percent of a case is the briefs. So, to properly understand this case, we recommend reading the briefs linked above… or scanning them if you’ve got a limited amount of time to devote to this subject.

Tim Eyman must be held accountable for lying to the public during last year’s I-976 campaign

Election Postmortem

Last year, during the campaign for and against Initiative 976, sponsor Tim Eyman told a lot of whoppers as he crisscrossed the state promoting the incredibly destructive measure to gut funding for multimodal transportation investments… whoppers that were often repeated in the mass media without being debunked or even challenged.

With the Supreme Court on the verge of hearing oral arguments in the legal challenge against I-976 in just eleven days, it’s a good time to reflect anew on the ramifications that would result from I-976’s implementation, and a good time to hold Tim Eyman accountable for his many fibs and fabrications, especially given that Eyman is now a candidate for governor, the highest office in the state.

One of Eyman’s whoppers, which we addressed in an advisory on September 24th, 2019 (read it here), concerned the statewide fiscal fallout from I-976.

I-976 sought to repeal vehicle fees at three different levels (state, regional/Sound Transit, and local) as well as a slice of the sales tax on vehicle sales that is dedicated to transportation improvements.

During the course of the campaign Eyman claimed — falsely — that there was a “$3.5 billion surplus” that lawmakers could tap to backfill the big hole that I-976 would leave from gutting those revenue sources.

“There is more than enough revenue to backfill any affected government program,” Eyman wrongly declared on multiple occasions as he pitched the initiative.

The Seattle Times’ Heidi Groover was one of the few reporters who took the trouble of carefully unpacking and analyzing Eyman’s claim, in a story that ran on October 30th, close to Election Day.

“That [$3.5 billion] figure, now about $3.1 billion in the latest available projections, includes the state’s rainy-day fund that even some conservative groups are hesitant to drain,” Groover reported.

“About $2.2 billion is in that fund. Lawmakers need a three-fifths vote to spend from that account — except after catastrophic events and during times of low employment growth. The remaining $952 million in reserves are not in the rainy-day fund and could be spent with a simple majority.”

Groover’s story goes on to recount what happened to agencies like Washington State Ferries after Eyman’s I-695 was partially implemented twenty years ago.

As mentioned, in many other stories we saw, including one that was billed as a fact-checking segment, Eyman’s claim about there being “more than enough revenue to backfill any affected government program” was repeated without being debunked or even being challenged like it should have been.

As a consequence, some voters may have bought into the false notion that I-976 was a free lunch and that its approval would not jeopardize projects.

(Postelection research by Stuart Elway’s firm later validated that most voters are not in favor of cuts to projects.)

“During the campaign against I-976, we made it abundantly clear that there was no ‘$3.5 billion net surplus’ and that Tim Eyman was lying,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve.

“Monies set aside for a rainy day in the budget stabilization account are not surplus funds, they are emergency funds, and they are constitutionally protected precisely to guard against the possibility of being raided to pay for things that aren’t actual emergencies… like the irresponsible tax cutting schemes of a shoplifting grifter obsessed with instant gratification. The events of the last few months have demonstrated exactly what we meant last autumn when we said there was no surplus.”

“The emergency that we were saving for has arrived. We now need every penny of the rainy day fund and our reserves to stabilize our budget and avoid horrific cuts to services.”

The rainy day fund is not enough to cover the fiscal hole the state is facing, so lawmakers will either need to raise revenue, borrow money, seek federal assistance, or do all three to avoid horrific cuts to services.

“Washington State couldn’t afford Tim Eyman’s I-976 in 2019 and it certainly can’t afford I-976 now,” Villeneuve added. “Because I-976 is blatantly unconstitutional, there is still an opportunity for it to be defeated in the Supreme Court before it can start wreaking havoc on our already-suffering communities. We are grateful to all the plaintiffs who have carried on the fight against I-976 in the courts, and we are hopeful that when the case is finally over, I-976 will have been struck down in its entirety and Washingtonians will have dodged a massive transportation budget bomb. In the meantime, Tim Eyman must be held accountable for his lies at every opportunity.”

For reference, here is last year’s advisory in response to Eyman’s whopper.

NPI responds to submission of signatures for R-90: Young people deserve comprehensive sexual health education

From the Campaign TrailStatements & AdvisoriesThreat Analysis

This afternoon in Olympia, right wing activists submitted what they said were more than 260,000 signatures in support of Referendum 90, a measure that seeks to force a November 2020 statewide vote on ESSB 5395, Washington’s new comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE) law. Under the Washington State Constitution, sponsors and backers of R-90 had until the close of business today to submit 129,811 valid signatures from Washington voters. The campaign’s claimed total easily exceeds this number, although the signatures must still be validated via random sample check before a determination of qualification can be made.

Following the submission of signatures, Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve pledged that NPI would work hard to secure a vote of approval from the people that sustains ESSB 5395 this autumn.

“Washingtonians deserve a vigorous campaign in defense of our sorely needed comprehensive sexual health education law,” said Villeneuve. “NPI is committed to helping build a broad coalition to make that happen. Knowledge is power, and it’s critically important that young people have the information they need to make safe and healthy decisions, no matter what zip code they live in. That’s why our state needs ESSB 5395. We are fired up to defend this law on the November 2020 ballot.”

More than two out of three Washingtonians surveyed last autumn support comprehensive sexual health education, Villeneuve noted. “Last autumn, before the 2020 legislative session, we asked likely Washington voters about their views on ESSB 5395. 67% expressed support, and nearly fifty percent told us that they strongly supported the bill.”

“So when the right wing says this legislation is unpopular, what they really mean is that it’s unpopular with their base. Their base, however, is not a majority of the electorate in the State of Washington. They’ve demonstrated that they have a capability to force a public vote on this issue. Now we intend to demonstrate that a majority supports keeping this important new law in place.”

“We’re ready to wage a campaign that brings Washingtonians together in support of providing our young people with the curriculum they need to make safe and healthy decisions. We look forward to fostering a dialogue with the public about the value of comprehensive sexual health education, and debunking the lies and misinformation that the right wing has been circulating about ESSB 5395.”

Here’s the question NPI asked, and the responses we received:

QUESTION: The Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction has asked the Washington State Legislature to adopt legislation requiring all Washington state schools to teach inclusive, evidence-informed, scientifically accurate, comprehensive sexual health education, which must include “affirmative consent” curriculum. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this legislation?

ANSWERS:

  • Support: 67%
    • Strongly Support: 49%
    • Somewhat Support: 18%
  • Oppose: 22%
    • Somewhat Oppose:  7%
    • Strongly Oppose: 15%
  • Not Sure: 11%

Our survey of nine hundred likely 2019 Washington State voters was in the field October 22nd-23rd, 2019. The survey used a blended methodology with automated phone calls to landlines and text messages to cell phone only respondents. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for NPI, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level. More details about NPI’s poll finding are available in this Cascadia Advocate post.

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Victory: I-976 struck down!

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