Category Archives: In the Courts

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.

NPI on federal order requiring Eyman to pay what he owes Washington State taxpayers: Long overdue

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

Today, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that disgraced initiative promoter turned gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman has been ordered by Chief Judge Marc Barrecca of the United States Bankruptcy Court to begin paying the penalties he has been racking up in the state’s long-running campaign finance enforcement lawsuit against him.

Eyman must pay $278,137.93 immediately and then must make substantial monthly payments until he has satisfied his obligations. The order covers what he already owes to the people of the State of Washington, plus any future judgments. Eyman shall be eligible for a one percent interest rate as long as he pays on time. If he doesn’t, then the interest rate increases to twelve percent for the remaining amount.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve thanked Ferguson and state attorneys for securing the order.

“Tim Eyman has been evading responsibility and accountability for his lawbreaking for an extremely long time,” said Villeneuve.

“The citizen complaint that precipitated this lawsuit was originally filed in the summer of 2012… almost eight years ago. And let’s remember that it was a citizen complaint that started all of this. That complaint was originally filed with the Public Disclosure Commission, which then turned the matter over to the Attorney General’s office.”

“At every stage of the investigation and subsequent court action, Tim Eyman has been uncooperative. His repeated refusals to turn over documents and records needed to bring the truth to light has caused this case to drag on for a very long time. And while he may have reaped a short term payoff from his stonewalling in the extreme legal defense strategy, it is not going to work over the long-term, as today’s decision shows.”

“Our team at NPI is very pleased that the Attorney General’s office has concluded that Tim Eyman’s violations of our public disclosure laws were intentional and will be seeking triple penalties,” said Villeneuve. “Tim Eyman must be made to pay a steep price for operating above the law for so long. Today, we saw real progress towards the important goal of holding Eyman accountable. That’s great news to get in bad times.”

In addition to heading the Northwest Progressive Institute, Villeneuve is a boardmember of Washingtonians For Ethical Government (WFEG) a group that works to ensure Washington’s campaign finance laws are upheld and enforced. Fellow WFEG director Sherry Bockwinkel filed the aforementioned complaint with the PDC that was ultimately referred to the Attorney General for prosecution.

I-976 remains blocked from implementation, Tim Eyman proved wrong again

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

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.

NPI applauds Judge Dixon’s 02/21/2020 ruling in long-running Eyman campaign finance enforcement case

In the Courts

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.”

NPI responds to today’s I-976 court ruling and Eyman speech

In the Courts

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.”

For further analysis, please see this Cascadia Advocate blog post.

On Eyman’s speech:

“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.”

Initiative 976 court challenge oral argument on summary judgment: A primer

In the CourtsRethinking and Reframing

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.

The measure failed within six counties as well as Sound Transit’s urban and suburban jurisdiction; it passed in Washington’s other thirty-three counties.

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.

A list of those defects is available in this post on the Cascadia Advocate.

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.

King County's David Hackett making arguments
King County’s David Hackett presents oral arguments in Garfield County v. State (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Because I-976 is already on hold thanks to an earlier ruling by Judge Ferguson in November, today’s hearing concerns the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment.

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.

Who are the parties in the case?

The parties are:

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; TRANSIT RIDERS UNION; and CLIMATE SOLUTIONS,

Intervenor-Plaintiffs,

v.

STATE OF WASHINGTON,

Defendant,

and

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

Intervenor-Defendants.

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)

A complete accounting of all of the outcomes of the measures that Eyman has attempted is available from NPI’s Permanent Defense project.

NPI thanks Supreme Court for sustaining I-976 injunction

Election PostmortemIn the Courts

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.”


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Victory: I-976 struck down!

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