This afternoon, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson ruled that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 would remain on ice for the time being, granting a motion by the plaintiffs who have challenged its constitutionality to keep an injunction in place that bars its implementation. I-976 seeks to eliminate billions of dollars in funding for essential transportation needs at the state, regional, and local levels; it passed last November and was immediately subjected to a legal challenge.
Judge Ferguson’s order preserves the status quo while the case progresses in the Washington State Supreme Court. The parties in the case have asked the Court to decide the fate of the preliminary injunction, which was initially issued by Judge Ferguson the day before Thanksgiving last year. The Supreme Court has already upheld the injunction once. Now plaintiffs are asking that it be kept in place until the legal challenge is resolved. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, on the other hand, has asked that the injunction be lifted.
Earlier this week, in a Tuesday email, Tim Eyman falsely told his followers and the press that I-976 would be going into effect today (Friday).
“HUGE VICTORY,” Eyman’s subject line declared. “Judge Ferguson signs Final Judgment Order three days early, I-976 takes effect on Friday.”
Of course, that was a lie. The aforementioned order concerned the disposition of the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims and did not concern the preliminary injunction.
But today’s order does. Judge Marshall Ferguson wrote that it is “ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that Plaintiffs’ Emergency Motion is GRANTED. The date to lift the preliminary injunction entered in this matter on November 27, 2019 is continued from March 27, 2020 until such date when the Washington Supreme Court rules on Plaintiffs’ Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Review.”
Consequently, I-976 will not be going into effect today as Eyman claimed.
Unusually, Eyman tacitly admitted that his statement about I-976 going into effect was a fabrication in the very same email that he sent out on Tuesday.
Buried in the email, above Eyman’s signature line, was the following:
“To be clear: On behalf of taxpayers, I can’t declare victory yet, but it’s looking good that anxious citizens will get some needed tax relief very soon,” Eyman conceded.
Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve thanked media outlets for not picking up on Eyman’s lie and thereby misinforming more Washingtonians about the status of the case.
“These are difficult times and people need accurate, reliable information,” said Villeneuve. “A public health crisis like this coronavirus pandemic reminds us how important the truth is and how important science is. Sadly, Tim Eyman doesn’t care about truth or science. He wants so badly for I-976 to be implemented that he keeps publicly pretending that it has gone into effect… or imminently will.”
“However, I-976 remains on ice. The Supreme Court will have the final word on I-976’s constitutionality, as it always does in a case like this. Like Judge Ferguson, the justices are aware that if the injunction were to be lifted but the initiative later found unconstitutional, the people’s public services would be irreparably harmed.”
“We hope and expect that the Court will keep the injunction in place until it reaches a final decision with respect to Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.”
The case is Garfield County Transportation Authority et al vs. State of Washington et al, 19-2-30171-6 SEA.
Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon granted Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s motion for partial summary judgment in the main State of Washington v. Tim Eyman campaign finance enforcement case (No. 17-2-01546-34). Dixon affirmed his previous ruling from last September that $766,447 in funds that Eyman calls “gifts” over the past several years were actually campaign contributions that should have been disclosed to the public because they supported Eyman’s initiative activism.
The judge found that Eyman himself has been operating as a continuing campaign committee — just like his campaign entities Voters Want More Choices and Permanent Offense — and that he should have been filing monthly reports going back fifty-five months, which are now “a combined 173,862 days late as of the date of this order.”
NPI/Permanent Defense founder Andrew Villeneuve, who has been working to hold Eyman accountable for his destructive initiatives and public disclosure violations for over eighteen years, praised the ruling and highlighted its importance.
“Throughout his career as a professional scammer and purveyor of destructive initiatives, Tim Eyman has operated as though the law simply doesn’t apply to him,” said Villeneuve.
“It is illegal to conceal donations that support a ballot measure, yet Tim Eyman has been doing this for years. His violations were willful and flagrant.”
“Because he purposefully mixes his personal and political funds together, and has since his early days, it is all one pot of money, and therefore, the identities of all of Eyman’s donors needed to be disclosed, not just some of them.”
“Tim Eyman has been telling people for years that if they give to him personally, as opposed to writing a check to one of his PACs, their identities will not become known. We know because we have copies of Eyman’s donor pitches.”
“It was wrong of Eyman to promise anonymity to donors when he knew personal funds would in fact be used to support ballot measures he was working on.
“Now, thanks to Judge Dixon, the truth will come out. It’s time for Washingtonians to learn who Tim Eyman’s secret donors are. It’s time for sunlight, which has appropriately been called the best of disinfectants. It’s time for accountability.”
Today and throughout this month, Permanent Defense celebrates its eighteenth anniversary, marking one two hundred and sixteen months of continuous operation.
The events of the past twelve months have served as a reminder of how important and essential Permanent Defense’s work is.
After a multi-year stretch with almost no right wing measures on the statewide ballot, we faced an election in which there were two (Initiative 976 and Referendum 88) in yet another odd-numbered year with poor turnout.
We did not realize our 2019 electoral goals, but our work goes on. The results of last November’s election were a setback, but not the end of the story. We refuse to lose.
We simply can’t afford the destructive cuts to multimodal transportation infrastructure that would result from the implementation of Tim Eyman’s I-976, nor can we allow Eyman’s Initiative 200 to remain in place for another two decades.
2019 also reminded us how tough it is to wage campaigns when the opposition has a stacked deck working in their favor. Going forward, we must end abusive practices like ballot title shopping that make it laughably easy for scammers like Eyman to perpetrate their cons. And we must eliminate Eyman’s taxpayer-funded propaganda from the ballot.
Even though the 2019 ballot was rigged against us with deceptive, poorly written ballot titles and propaganda, we went all in to defeat Initiative 976 and save Initiative 1000.
And we have no regrets about that. Our communities are worth defending from bad ballot measures. Even in an electoral landscape rigged against us, taking a stand for the values our state was founded upon was the just and moral thing to do.
I have no doubt that were it not for the work of NPI’s Permanent Defense project and Keep Washington Rolling/Washington Fairness Coalition partners, the outcomes of both initiatives would have been very lopsided in favor of the right wing. By taking a stand, we brought down the opposition’s margin of victory significantly.
During the past twelve months, in addition to opposing I-976, we also opposed three other Tim Eyman ballot measures that all failed to qualify:
and Initiative 1082.
Referendum 80 sought to nullify a set of pay increases approved by Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials, while Initiatives 1608 and 1082 were attempts to repeal modest revenue reforms adopted by the Legislature in the 2019 long session. All three measures died after their signature drives ended in failure.
Were it not for our work to hold Tim Eyman accountable for his lying, cheating, and stealing, Eyman might have been able to line up one or more wealthy benefactors to put money behind those measures, like he has in years past. But he wasn’t able to.
All the while, Eyman was racking up fines in Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s long-running campaign finance enforcement case against him due to his continuing and willful violations of court orders, which have landed him in contempt.
We wish the Attorney General’s office well in their determined and sorely needed efforts to hold Eyman accountable. This summer, the case against Eyman is scheduled to go to trial, and we will be following the proceedings with great interest.
Even in difficult times and difficult circumstances, there are bright spots. I’m very proud of the groundbreaking initiatives Permanent Defense undertook in support of Initiative 1000 and against Initiative 976 in 2019. They made a difference and demonstrated what can be accomplished with imaginative advocacy.
Enjoy the following chronology of my favorite moments from our eighteenth year.
Eyman abandons Referendum 80
April 12th, 2019
Often his own worst enemy, Eyman made an incorrect assumption when proceeding with plans for a signature drive in support of a measure aimed at nullifying the 2020 salary schedule approved by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials in early 2019. As a consequence, all of the work he put into Referendum 80 was for naught, and he abandoned the measure in disgust rather than start over.
Eyman’s I-1648 crashes and burns
July 5th, 2019
With representatives of the Northwest Progressive Institute watching (and photographing!), Tim Eyman was forced to admit that his frantic efforts to qualify a measure to the November 2019 ballot with the muscle of a reactionary, pro-secession group called “Liberty State” had ended in failure.
Lynnwood Link groundbreaking
September 3rd, 2019
Just after Labor Day, Sound Transit broke ground on Lynnwood Link, an extension of the agency’s regional light rail network, which will bring light rail close to Eyman’s old stomping grounds of Mukilteo (he is now a resident of Bellevue in the heart of King County). Preventing Eyman from interfering with Sound Transit’s efforts to build Link was the objective of the first campaign that Permanent Defense undertook in 2002.
Every groundbreaking and every station opening gets our region closer to a future where people have the freedom to safely and reliably get around without a car.
Eyman ordered to report personal income as campaign contributions by Judge Dixon
September 13th, 2019
Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon granted Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s motion to impose additional sanctions on Eyman, who has consistently tried to evade accountability for his violations of Washington’s public disclosure law through a legal defense strategy dubbed by NPI as “stonewalling in the extreme”.
Never before has the destructive impact of a Tim Eyman initiative been visualized as elegantly and powerfully as it was with our NO on I-976 Impact Map, designed by the talented Oran Viyancy. We rolled out the map at press events in Auburn and Seattle, and it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people on the web or on the local news.
We developed two ads for Spanish language radio outlets urging a NO vote on Tim Eyman’s transit-destroying Initiative 976 and an APPROVED vote on Initiative 1000, the Washington Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Act. Although not all voters speak English or use it as their first language, very few campaigns make any effort to create materials in languages other than English. We made the effort.
Just before Thanksgiving, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson put Eyman’s incredibly destructive I-976 on ice with an injunction barring it from taking effect on December 5th — a decision that was subsequently upheld by the the State Supreme Court a few days later, and a decision that kept funding for transportation improvements flowing to over sixty cities throughout Washington.
Eyman fails to qualify I-1082
January 3rd, 2020
As 2020 began, the deadline to submit signatures for initiatives to the 2020 Legislature came and went without an appearance by Eyman at the Secretary of State’s office. The death of Initiative 1082 went entirely unmentioned by Eyman, who had ceased using the doomed measure as a fundraising gimmick several weeks prior.
Today, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson issued a ruling in the I-976 legal challenge on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment, just hours before Tim Eyman confirmed that he’s running for Governor as a Republican during a rambling, Trump-like speech in Yakima. NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve offered the following observations in response to these developments.
On the court ruling:
“NPI disagrees with Judge Marshall Ferguson’s ruling on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment in the I-976 legal challenge. While we deeply appreciate the time that Judge Ferguson took to consider the issues in this complex case, including an entire day of oral argument, we believe the conclusions he reached are erroneous. We concur with the plaintiffs that I-976 suffers from multiple constitutional defects, including violations of the single subject rule and the subject-in-title rule. I-976 is not a well-drafted initiative. We look forward to seeing this case reach the Washington State Supreme Court for a final determination regarding its constitutionality, or lack thereof.”
“Now that Tim Eyman is a candidate for high office instead of just a pitchman for destructive initiatives, he looks and sounds even more like his idol, Donald Trump. Trump is a master of media manipulation and projection: he projects his own faults onto his opponents every chance that he gets. That’s exactly what Tim Eyman did during his speech in Yakima while speaking to a friendly audience of followers, including Republican precinct committee officers. Both Tim Eyman and Donald Trump are egotistical, narcissistic sociopaths who revel in their ability to exploit and dupe people. Neither Trump nor Eyman is fit to serve in any public office at any level of government.”
This morning, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson is once again hearing oral arguments in Garfield County et al v. State of Washington et al, the legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, which the Garfield County Transportation Authority and other plaintiffs (including intervenor plaintiffs) contend is unconstitutional.
Initiative 976 is the destructive and deceptive measure sponsored by Eyman that Washington voters saw on their ballots last autumn, which falsely advertised the prospect of “thirty dollar car tabs” in its ballot title, with no consequences mentioned whatsoever.
I-976 was adopted with the support of a submajority of voters; 23.44% of Washingtonians registered to vote voted yes on I-976, while the remainder did not vote or voted no.
Turnout in the 2019 Washington State general election ended up at 45.19%, it was the seventh worst general election turnout in state history.
Like bills, initiatives proposed to the people must comply with all of the provisions of the Washington State Constitution. The plaintiffs in this case allege that Initiative 976 has eleven different constitutional defects.
Some of the alleged defects, if proven by the plaintiffs, would result in the invalidation of the initiative in its entirety.
For example, when a measure runs afoul of the Constitution’s anti-logrolling provision, severability does not apply and all provisions get voided.
In the words of the plaintiffs:
“I-976 had a deceptive ballot title that mislead the voters. It lied about ensuring car tabs would be $30. It combined multiple unrelated subjects to cobble together enough support to get the measure passed, a classic unconstitutional log-rolling guise. I-976 fails to set forth all statutes it amends rendering its application confusing.”
“It intrudes on local home rule powers of taxation for local purposes, seeks to over-turn local election results, and requires diversion of locally approved taxes. I-976 impairs contract obligations by seeking to eliminate Burien’s vehicle license fee that have been pledged to secure its bonds. Each of these matters are constitutional violations requiring that I-976 be struck down,” the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment concludes.
The plaintiffs are asking that Judge Ferguson find I-976 unconstitutional and strike it down; the defendants are asking that I-976 be upheld.
The initiative’s defense, in accordance with state law, is the responsibility of Attorney General Bob Ferguson, because it was passed by voters.
However, several parties have intervened in the case, so there will be many entities making arguments before Judge Ferguson at today’s hearing.
Q&A: Background on the I-976 legal challenge
What is the challenge about and why was it brought?
This case was brought to protect Washington State from the destructive ramifications that implementation of Initiative 976 would entail, and to defend the Washington State Constitution from I-976. I-976 threatens essential funding for multimodal transportation projects at three levels: state, regional, and local.
At the outset of the case, the plaintiffs had two objectives:
To temporarily prevent Initiative 976 from taking effect on December 5th, 2019 (as scheduled) and immediately depriving cities and transit agencies all over Washington State from revenue needed to ensure freedom of mobility
To permanently prevent Initiative 976 from taking effect by obtaining a declaratory judgment finding it unconstitutional on one or more grounds.
The plaintiffs succeeded in securing their first objective last year, when they persuaded Judge Marshall Ferguson to grant an injunction barring the implementation and enforcement of I-976, an order that was subsequently upheld on appeal. The plaintiffs are now asking Judge Ferguson to issue a declaratory judgment finding I-976 unconstitutional.
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,
WASHINGTON ADAPT; TRANSIT RIDERS UNION; and CLIMATE SOLUTIONS,
STATE OF WASHINGTON,
CLINT DIDIER; PERMANENT OFFENSE, TIMOTHY D. EYMAN, MICHAEL FAGAN; JACK FAGAN; and PIERCE COUNTY,
What happens after oral argument?
Judge Ferguson will consider each party’s arguments and rule on the cross motions for summary judgment. Whichever way he rules, his decision will almost certainly be appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court. A common adage among lawyers is that ninety percent of a case comes down to written briefs. So while today’s oral argument provides an opportunity for the judge to hear from the parties’ attorneys, the judge has already seen hundreds of pages of arguments and supporting documentation from the parties. NPI has copies of these materials and can provide them upon request.
When will the judge rule?
Judge Ferguson indicated this morning in his welcoming remarks to counsel and to the public that he plans to rule early next week, but cautioned he may choose to take more time to develop his ruling. He has set aside all of today for oral argument.
Didn’t the State Supreme Court already issue a ruling in this case?
Yes, but that ruling only concerned the injunction that Judge Ferguson ordered temporarily barring I-976 from going into effect. Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested that the Supreme Court overturn the injunction; a majority of the justices declined that request. I-976 will soon return before the Court for a final determination of its constitutionality. If the justices agree that the plaintiffs have proved I-976 unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt, it will not go into effect.
This isn’t the first Eyman initiative to face a legal challenge. How many Tim Eyman initiatives have previously been struck down as unconstitutional?
Seven if you don’t count Initiative 776, which was partially neutralized in Pierce County II.
Initiative 695 (1999; vehicle fees)
Initiative 722 (2000; property taxes)
Initiative 747 (2001; property taxes)
Initiatives 960, 1053, 1185 (2007, 2010, 2012; thresholds for passage of revenue bills)
Initiative 1366 (2015; attempted extortion to re-implement I-960/I-1053/I-1185)
This afternoon, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson’s ruling that Tim Eyman’s I-976 shall be barred from being implemented until its constitutionality (or lack thereof) can be determined.
I-976 is Eyman’s most recent measure, which seeks to wipe out billions of dollars in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office had filed an emergency appeal seeking to have the injunction overturned. The Supreme Court has denied that motion.
Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve thanked the Supreme Court for sustaining the injunction.
“Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision today, Tim Eyman’s scheme to destroy multimodal transportation infrastructure in the State of Washington will not go into effect on December 5th,” said Villeneuve.
“Instead, we Washingtonians will continue to pool our resources to ensure that we can build and maintain the roads, railways, bus routes, sidewalks, and bike paths that our communities need. Revenue from vehicle fees Eyman wants to repeal will either be held in escrow pending the Supreme Court’s final verdict on I-976, or provided to local governments like the City of Seattle and King County, which are plaintiffs in this case.”
In recent days, Tim Eyman has repeatedly issued exhortations calling upon Washingtonians to join him in breaking the law and not paying their vehicle fees.
These exhortations are irresponsible and do not deserve to be given airtime, ink, or pixels.
“As citizens, we have a mutual responsibility to each other to pay our dues to our state and country,” said Villeneuve. “It is patriotic to be a taxpayer and pay one’s dues.”
“If there were no taxes, there would be no public services, and if there were no public services, there would be no Washington State and no United States of America. It is what we do together as a people for each other that makes us strong. None of us can afford to repair a bridge or run a bus route with a vehicle fee refund. But together, we can empower our neighbors like Michael Rogers, a plaintiff in the I-976 case, to get where they want to go, even if they cannot drive or do not wish to drive.”
“Tim Eyman has framed I-976 as being about car tabs, but in reality, I-976 is an assault on freedom of mobility, and should be characterized as such in stories about the measure. As Eyman has admitted when speaking to friendly audiences, his objective with I-976 is to wipe out funding for transportation modes other than auto travel, because he doesn’t believe in them. Gas taxes have also been increased in recent years, but Eyman didn’t target those with I-976, because gas tax revenues are required by the Constitution to be used for highway purposes… the one transportation mode that Eyman supports.”
“‘Thirty dollar tabs’ is a marketing slogan… a dishonest slogan. As Eyman has admitted, even if I-976 goes into effect, no one in Washington will pay thirty dollars to renew their vehicle’s registration, because the initiative doesn’t actually cap fees at thirty dollars. That’s not a problem for Eyman, because the truth is irrelevant to him. As long as multimodal transportation infrastructure gets defunded, Eyman will have achieved his aim.”
“Right now, that’s not happening due to the injunction against I-976. Today’s decision may be bad news for Eyman, but it’s good news for Washington communities.”
This morning, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson ruled that Tim Eyman’s I-976 shall be barred from being implemented until its constitutionality (or lack thereof) can be determined.
I-976 is Eyman’s most recent measure, which seeks to wipe out billions of dollars in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments.
“Plaintiffs have a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of the rights afforded by the Washington Constitution due to implementation of I-976. Implementation on December 5, 2019 of an unconstitutionally misleading statewide initiative, even if approved by a majority of voters, would be an invasion per se of Plaintiffs’ rights under the Washington Constitution,” Judge Ferguson wrote in his decision.
“Put simply, enforcement of what is likely an unconstitutional law would invade Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”
Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who helped organize the campaign against I-976, praised the decision.
“Judge Marshall Ferguson’s order staying Tim Eyman’s I-976 is great news for Washington State,” said Villeneuve. “While this will not be the final word from our courts on I-976, it is encouraging that Judge Ferguson found that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their arguments against I-976.”
“I-976 is riddled with constitutional defects and was presented to voters for their consideration with a dishonest ballot title, which is unacceptable.
“No law, whether originating in the Legislature as a bill or originating from the people as an initiative, may violate our plan of government.”
“This is a bedrock principle of our democracy. After twenty years of sponsoring initiatives, you might think Tim Eyman would have learned by now how to write a constitutional initiative, but the truth is that he doesn’t seem to care whether his measures withstand constitutional scrutiny or not.”
“He certainly pretends to care, and he expresses anger when his initiatives are challenged. But someone who really did care wouldn’t throw money at an initiative until they were sure that they had dotted all of their i’s and crossed all of their t’s. Tim Eyman didn’t. Instead, he overreached, like has has so many times in the past.”
“Judge Ferguson has a duty and an obligation to defend the Constitution of Washington State and today he honored that obligation by staying I-976. As a result, our communities will not begin to suffer the grave harms of I-976’s implementation next week.”
“Our team at NPI is incredibly grateful to Judge Ferguson for acting swiftly and thoughtfully to protect our Constitution and our commonwealth from the threat of I-976. We will certainly be giving thanks today and tomorrow for the good sense, judgment, and wisdom that he has shown in reaching this decision.”
Disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman declared today after years of shunning suggestions to run for elected office that he is a candidate for Governor of Washington State, the highest position in the land.
Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve noted that if Eyman actually intends to go through with his stated intention of becoming a candidate, he is required to file a declaration of candidacy with the Public Disclosure Commission, as well as a Personal Financial Affairs Statement, within two weeks of making an announcement or raising/spending money.
“Let’s see that paperwork,” said Villeneuve. “Tim Eyman is a liar, a thief, and a con artist. For years, he has operated as though our public disclosure laws don’t apply to him. But they do. Activists, operatives, and candidates alike are all obligated to comply with our public disclosure laws. Until Tim Eyman files his C1 and his F1, we will not regard him as a candidate. He lies so frequently and effortlessly that his utterances are devoid of meaning until followed up with action. So, again, let’s see that paperwork. Should it be filed, we will have a long, long list of questions for Candidate Tim Eyman concerning his positions on issues he normally avoids. Where does he stand on womxn’s reproductive rights? On addressing lack of funding for behavioral health? On complying with treaty obligations to our Native American tribes? On reducing pollution of our air, water, and soil? On upholding collective bargaining rights? On abolishing the death penalty?”
“Tim Eyman may regard a candidacy as another scheme for separating fools from their money, but he will find that people will want to know where he stands on the issues… all of them… as a candidate for Washington State’s top job.”
Eyman would not be the first “initiative activist” in the Pacific Northwest to try running for high office if he proceeds with his gubernatorial gambit.
In 1998, Tim Eyman’s Oregon counterpart Bill Sizemore managed to secure the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor of Oregon and went on to lose in a landslide, garnering only 30% of the vote.
Public opinion research dating back to 2012 has consistently shown that a majority of Washingtonians who know of Tim Eyman have a negative opinion of him.
Eyman did his reputation no favors when he inexplicably decided to steal a chair from Office Depot earlier this year.
Republicans previously tried to break the Democratic Party’s decades-long gubernatorial winning streak with Ellen Craswell, John Carlson, Dino Rossi, Rob McKenna, and Bill Bryant. None were successful. The last candidate to be elected Governor of Washington who was not a Democrat was John Spellman in 1980.
Tim Eyman’s Election Night euphoria has predictably dissolved into whining and complaining over the reality that local governments aren’t going to allow his incredibly destructive I-976 to take effect next month without a constitutional challenge. With the court case now underway, Eyman is anxiously trying to spin I-976 as constitutional.
Eyman argues that since I-776 was partially upheld by the Supreme Court in Pierce County v. State in 2003, I-976 must be constitutional, too.
(I-776 was Eyman’s 2002 initiative that was aimed at slashing vehicle fees. It narrowly passed.)
But this is yet another bogus Eyman argument. It comes from someone with a long track record of losing in the courts.
Every Tim Eyman initiative since 1999 that has gotten past the voters has been challenged successfully on constitutional grounds except for I-900 (2005).
The list of challenged Eyman initiatives is as follows:
I-695 from 2000: Struck down because it violated Article II, Section 19.
If you compare I-776 to I-976, you can see they are very different. I-976 targets fees that didn’t even exist around the turn of the century.
A total of seventeen years elapsed between voters’ consideration of I-776 and I-976.
In that time, the Legislature modified a significant number of RCWs pertaining to transportation funding.
For example, working together with three different governors, the Legislature passed:
the nickel transportation package (in 2003);
the 2005 Transportation package (in 2005);
legislation giving local governments more revenue authority for transportation (in 2020);
the Connecting Washington transportation package (in 2015).
The 2005 package authorized vehicle weight fees as a funding source for multimodal transportation projects at the state level, while the 2015 package gave Sound Transit the authority to seek voter approval for a higher motor vehicle excise tax and empowered transportation benefit districts to raise more money from vehicle fees.
In 2015, the Legislature also authorized counties and cities to assume transportation benefit districts; see Chapter 36.74 RCW.
The plaintiffs in Garfield County et al v. State allege that I-976 has constitutional defects. We agree. Tim Eyman can claim we’re wrong till he’s red in the face, but history is not on his side. The courts will decide who’s right, not Eyman or his new attorney Richard Sanders, who voters decided to remove from the Supreme Court several years ago.
It is essential to remember that the schemes that Eyman has come up with have consistently been found to be unconstitutional.
If Eyman were interested in writing measures that did not have constitutional defects, he would take much greater care when drafting measures like I-976. But he doesn’t.
And others active in right wing politics in Washington State have noticed.
“We feel that we need to have a product that has the best chance of surviving the inevitable court challenge that will follow,” said “Liberty State” organizers Mike McKee and Cary Condotta in a July 2019 message to their fans explaining why their group was choosing not to continue working with Tim Eyman. (For background, see this post.)
For Eyman, there is a big upside to seeing one of his measures get struck down in court: he can go back to his followers and argue that he needs more money for another initiative that does the same thing, or a similar thing. Eyman profits regardless of whether his measures are successful. He knows how to run a good scam.
But Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office is working tirelessly to hold him accountable for violating our public disclosure laws. That could ruin Eyman’s future plans to continue launching attacks on Washington’s communities. Is it any wonder, then, that Eyman furiously denounces the Attorney General as “Fascist Fergie”?
Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve welcomed the filing of the legal challenge and wished the plaintiffs well.
“The fight against I-976 continues in a different arena with the filing of this necessary, timely legal challenge,” said Villeneuve.
“Tim Eyman intended for Initiative 976 to be a wrecking ball aimed at our multimodal transportation investments, which he ideologically opposes. If I-976 is ever implemented, that is certainly what it would be. But there’s a good chance it will never go into effect, because the measure itself is a blazing dumpster fire.”
“Like previous Eyman initiatives, I-976 is loaded with constitutional defects. For instance, it violates the single subject rule as well as the subject in title rule. The NPI team agrees with the plaintiffs that I-976 simply cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny. The courts should protect our plan of government and toss I-976 in the scrap heap of Washington State electoral history where it belongs. Then, our Legislature should promptly act to address the concerns that many Washingtonians have about our reliance on a needlessly complicated, multi-layered system of vehicle fees to fund the essential transportation improvements our communities need.”
“The Legislature must also make an initiative reform a top priority. Ridiculous abuses that open the door to deception, like ballot title shopping, need to be ended. A more robust process adopted for developing ballot titles that seeks and utilizes community input must be instituted as well. The title is the only language voters see on their ballots, so its content is of vital importance.”
“It’s irresponsible and immoral to ask voters to decide the fate of a proposed law using dishonest, poorly phrased, one-sided language. If voters are to pass an informed judgment on an initiative, the question they are asked must accurately represent what is being proposed and summarize the potential impacts. That was not the case with I-976. Loaded questions will always yield loaded answers.”
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