Among the big questions … Once a government body receives authority to create revenue and bonds it, the public is forever stuck with that revenue source. They based their decision on their prior ruling on Initiative 776, which had similar language but didn’t make paying off the bonds mandatory — thus making it “policy fluff” and not a separate subject. After the passage of Sound Transit 3, voters were shocked to learn their car tabs were higher than what Sound Transit suggested they would be, because the agency uses an outdated vehicle depreciation schedule that allows them to inflate the value of vehicles to collect maximum tax revenue from citizens. Yesterday, the Washington State Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by King County and others to I-976, the initiative approved by statewide voters last November to remove car tabs. The court’s ruling on this is bizarre and seems inconsistent with how they ruled in Pierce II, when single-subject didn’t appear to be an issue. The court’s ruling is a final straw in what is clearly a failure of government at every level in respecting voters – the legislative branch to start – followed by the initiative process, the Supreme Court, the office of the Governor, the office of the Attorney General, and of course – Sound Transit. In contrast, when Initiative 695 was struck down in 2000, Governor Locke called a news conference within hours of the ruling, “demanding the legislature act in special session to remove any doubt in voters’ minds” that their will would not be carried out. The Washington State Supreme Court has overturned a 2019 voter-backed initiative that would have reduced car tab fees to $30 statewide. Rather than taking up legislation from Senator O’Ban or Senator Liias, which had already been vetted by committees, Eyman chose to run I-976, which included a controversial provision that Sound Transit defease (or retire early) its bonds that are backed by MVET revenue, conditioned on the agency’s ability to do so. Eight of the justices — all except Justice Madsen — also agreed that the initiative’s title is deceptive and misleading. People were right to be outraged, and lawmakers were right to step up to try to fix this mistake. This morning the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Initiative 976, Tim Eyman’s most recent “$30 car tabs” effort, is unconstitutional. The court found that the provision requiring Sound Transit to retire, defease or refinance bonds “is not germane to limiting vehicle taxes and fees” and thus “is an unconstitutional second subject.”. To be sure, lawmakers were misled by Sound Transit in 2015 when Sound Transit officials repeatedly said they were seeking $15 billion in “full” taxing authority, which would be more than enough to cover the expansion they wanted. Supreme Court justices announced Wednesday they will hear arguments on Initiative 976 in May and June. On Oct. 15, justices ruled that Initiative 976 violated provisions of the state Constitution which limit the scope of ballot measures to no more than one topic. If you did, please take a moment to make a contribution to support my ongoing work. OLYMPIA — A unanimous state Supreme Court on Thursday (Oct. 15) struck down the $30 car-tab initiative passed by voters in 2019. The initiative is preceded by a long, 20-year history of voters asking for $30 car tabs. To prevent further erosion of public trust, it is critical that the Governor call the legislature into special session at this time to discuss how to implement the will of voters as expressed in Initiative 976. All nine justices agreed that I-976 contains an impermissible second subject in section 12. The second was that the initiative combined one-time required actions with broader systematic changes. The Sound Transit 3 package on November 2016 ballots had ballooned to a $54 billion plan. The court ruled Thursday morning that I-976, the Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative … 976 ( I-976) is a ballot initiative in the U.S. state of Washington that appeared on the ballot on November 5, 2019. The Court found that this was misleading to the average voter, who would read this to say that taxes and fees previously approved by voters would not be repealed. Once the revenue is bonded, there is nothing the legislature or the people through initiative can do to require defeasement of bonds to lower the revenue. The Washington Supreme Court has unanimously struck down Eyman's Initiative 976, a measure that would have steeply discounted the price of … Instead, the justices somehow arrived at the conclusion that defeasing bonds that rely on a revenue source that the initiative is trying to repeal is unrelated to repealing revenue. How to contact your Seattle City Council members. When Initiative 976 was struck down, Governor Inslee said he was “open to changes on the state’s portion of car tabs” but has not indicated any support for a special session to carry out the will of voters. A King County Superior Court judge has rejected most of a legal challenge to Tim Eyman's Initiative 976, but the measure remains on hold pending further arguments. The state Supreme Court has overturned Initiative 976, which was approved by voters in 2019 to lower annual vehicle registration renewals to $30 per year. Instead, Eyman ignored better options, including legislation from lawmakers that addressed defeasement of bonds by placing restrictions on the Department of Licensing’s ability to collect the tax for Sound Transit, and therefore not directly impinging on Sound Transit’s bond contracts. One was that the initiative contains unrelated local and statewide effects. Sound Transit has always had the ability to be fair and honest, and to correct car tab overcharges on their own. It was struck down unanimously by the Supreme Court primarily on the basis that it violated the single-subject rule in the state constitution’s Article II Section 19, which forbids a bill to contain more than one subject, and requires the subject to be expressed in the title. To add insult to injury, the court included a statement that though the initiative passed statewide with about 53 percent of the vote, “it was rejected by about 53 percent of the voters in the Sound Transit region, about 60 percent of King County voters, and about 70 percent of San Juan voters.” In reality, 46 percent of the initiative’s fiscal impact was on Sound Transit, 8 percent was on local transportation benefit districts across the state, and the rest of the impact was to state transportation accounts residents across Washington pay into. Regardless of whether voters pass the renewal, the city will need to sort through whether to ask voters to pass a modified version next year that reverts back to the prior funding mechanism. The agency has chosen to ignore public outcry because it benefits from the unfair overvaluation. Last week the parties challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 976 filed notice that they intended to appeal Judge Marshall Ferguson's recent ruling directly to the state Supreme Court. Mariya Frost is the Transportation Director at the Coles Center for Transportation at Washington Policy Center, an independent research organization with offices in Seattle, Olympia, Spokane and the Tri-Cities. While voters had approved the initiative last November, implementation of I-976 has been stayed following a lawsuit heard in the King County Superior Court this spring. Initiative 976 had seventeen sections, dealing with repealing specific taxes, repealing local authority to impose certain taxes in the future, a requirement for Sound Transit to retire bonds that it had issued based upon taxing authority that I-976 repealed, and new rules for basing vehicle valuations on Kelly Blue Book prices. It also provided some guaranteed car tab relief but not all the relief voted for in I-976, and eliminated parts of I-976 as a hedge. The Mayor, City Attorney, SDOT and City Council President have already sent out press releases this morning celebrating the overturning of I-976. Washington's budget office estimated that I-976 would have slashed as much as $4 billion in state tax revenue by 2025. The Governor has not shown any decisive leadership on this issue over the years it has been publicly debated. Thanks! At issue is the text in the title that says the bill would “limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges”. The state Supreme Court heard virtual oral arguments Tuesdayabout the constitutionality of the initiative to lower the cost of car tabs that voters passed last year. I-976 was approved by voters in November 2019. Article II Section 19 of the Washington State Constitution declares that no bill “shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in its title.” It applies to both bills passed by the state Legislature, and those approved by voters through the initiative process. While the plaintiffs argued that there were several other potential separate subjects, the Court did not take up those issues, as they didn’t need to: one impermissible extra subject is enough to invalidate the entire initiative. The Court found that the initiative contained multiple subjects and that its title was “deceptive and misleading.” It overturned a lower court ruling that largely upheld the initiative. The ruling leaves all affected taxes, fees, and … Post was not sent - check your email addresses! There is no doubt that agency officials carry enormous responsibility for the car tab mess everyone has had to deal with over the years, the brunt of it falling on working families in the Puget Sound region. Justices said Initiative 976 violated provisions of the state Constitution which limit the scope of ballot measures to no more than one topic. Much ink has been expended over the years by attorneys and judges debating the finer points of what it means to be “germane.” Likewise for the accuracy of a bill’s title; in the past courts have ruled that the title doesn’t need to exhaustively list every detail in the bill as “an index to its contents,” but it needs to represent the topics covered well and accurately enough to “give notice that would lead to an inquiry into the body of the act.”. I-976, which caps car tab fees at $30, was approved by voters in November. Copyright (C) 2014-2020, Kevin Schofield. Mark Twain is purported to have said that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” The ruling today is extremely disappointing and indicative of a much larger, systemic problem. The Supreme Court ruling is the end of the road for I-976, which was the brainchild of anti-tax activist Tim Eyman. The state Supreme Court will decide the fate of Initiative 976 sponsored by Tim Eyman, following oral arguments at a June 30 hearing and after legislative proposals to codify the initiative into state law failed during this year’s session.. Tim Eyman attacked Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s defense of I-976 in a letter sent on Thanksgiving. There was a near-solution in 2020 in the form of Senate Bill 6606, sponsored by Senator Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood), which would have replaced the unfair vehicle depreciation schedule Sound Transit currently uses with a newer schedule in state law that runs fairly close to Kelley Blue Book values. Rather than admitting error and working to restore public trust, Sound Transit has dug in its heels, refusing to be accountable to the public. The decision to keep I-976 as it was turned out to be a mistake. The Court emphasized that it reads ballot titles “as the average informed lay voter would,” not as skilled attorneys would parse them. Therefore, the provisions of the initiative will not be implemented. AunanimousstateSupremeCourtstruckdownthe$30car-tabinitiativepassedbyvotersin2019. As we are being told every five minutes that our votes and elections matter – it is incumbent upon elected officials to demonstrate that they believe this to be true. A second legal maneuver to allow Initiative 976 to take effect this week and lower the cost of vehicle license tabs was filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court. To their credit, the legal team from the Office of the Attorney General (AG) provided a solid defense of Initiative 976, including arguing that Sound Transit defeasing bonds is rationally tied to main subject of the initiative. As Eyman’s previous initiatives were challenged and struck down by the court, there was some concern that this, too, would face a similar outcome. The court ruled on Thursday that Initiative I-976, which would cap car tabs at $30, is unconstitutional. All the state or local government entity has to do is initiate a tax and issue bonds – and that tax can never be lowered as long as bonds are outstanding. Today, all nine justices of the Washington Supreme Court found Initiative 976 to be unconstitutional. However, the Seattle Transit Benefit District, which previously relied heavily on car-tab fees, is up for renewal in three weeks but with a proposal that also assumed I-976 would be upheld and substituted more regressive sales tax for the ca-tab fees. Yet, because of partisan politics, Democrats and Republicans did not come to any agreement in 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020. Yesterday’s decision fast-forwards the case so it moves directly from King County Superior Court to the Supreme Court without a transfer to the Court of Appeals. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court struck down Initiative 976, a measure Washington voters approved last November to reduce the cost of annual vehicle licensing fees. The Washington Supreme Court ruled Initiative 976 unconstitutional On Oct. 15, 2020, the Washington Supreme Court ruled Initiative 976 (I-976) unconstitutional. Initiative 976 was ruled unconstitutional by the court because it violated the state’s single-subject rule. OLYMPIA, WA — The Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday ruled Initiative 976 unconstitutional, striking down a measure approved by voters … The Court also highlighted two other issues with I-976 potentially covering multiple subjects that it said “raised concerns” for them but ultimately weren’t dispositive. The initiative is preceded by a long, 20-year history of voters asking for $30 car tabs. First, the legislature granted Sound Transit authority to tax and collect motor vehicle excise taxes (MVET) using an outdated depreciation schedule. The court decision settles the fate of more than $4 billion in transportation revenue. Director, Coles Center for Transportation, © 2021 Washington Policy Center   All Rights Reserved   Terms of Use, Delaying road projects is totally unnecessary, other solutions are available, $5 billion in cost overruns is “not catastrophic” to Sound Transit, but car tab relief is a “nightmare”, New Seattle minimum wage law forces Uber and Lyft to raise prices, Transportation officials hope to substitute agency control and values for legislative control of projects, Governor wants to delay critical projects, while funding electric ferries and high-speed rail, Officials pitch wishful thinking as fact in state plan to reduce driving. In contrast, the Attorney General’s office, in defending the initiative, argued that the provision is germane to limiting vehicle taxes and fees because it ensures that the MVET, which is a type of vehicle tax, can no longer be collected. The state Supreme Court has overturned Initiative 976, which was approved by voters in 2019 to lower annual vehicle registration renewals to $30 per year. I-976 threatened to eliminate or reduce funding for public transportation, bridges and roads, and other critical infrastructure and services across Washington. The Washington Supreme Court wants the constitutionality question for Initiative 976 settled for good and sooner rather than later. Sound Transit’s conduct over the years has shown the agency feels it is above the law. Democrats proposed legislation as well, but most of it was watered down and protected Sound Transit rather than taxpayers. The people, who are supposed to be in charge, do not want to pay high car tabs and have said so repeatedly - yet no one in government will allow their will to be enacted. This morning the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Initiative 976, Tim Eyman’s most recent “$30 car tabs” effort, is unconstitutional. With today’s ruling, I-976 is officially dead. When asked by reporters if he would consider providing car tab relief, the Governor said he would give it some thought, but ultimately the issue was brushed aside without any real policy analysis of the impact this relief could have for families. The Court did not rule on any of the other issues raised in the appeal. Voter-approved Initiative 976 to lower car tabs unconstitutional, Washington Supreme Court rules Initiative 976, which would cap car tabs at $30, … Independent news and analysis of the Seattle City Council. It can be raised, but it can never be lowered again. The legislation had some serious problems, however, including offsets to help Sound Transit without any retroactive refunds to people for tax overcharges they have paid since 2017. Since I-976’s section 12 is mandatory, the court found, it is a separate subject. I hope you found this article valuable. The release of the Washington State Supreme Court decision striking down Initiative 976 that was approved by voters last November seems appropriately timed – coming the day after a state advisory panel met virtually to discuss a planned report to … The state Supreme Court held a hearing Tuesday on I-976, the voter-approved $30 car tab initiative backed by Tim Eyman. Although the Supreme Court reversed the previous decision and upheld the initiative, the court later partially invalidated the initiative on the basis that it impaired contracts. The Supreme Court allowed an injunction against the initiative stand last December days before it was meant to take effect. The ruling could have significant financial consequences for transit agencies such as Sound Transit that rely on motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) revenue. Wordy and nerdy. Senator Steve O’Ban (R-Lakewood) proposed multiple bills year after year to try to fix this problem, but the bills were never moved. To isolate votes in Sound Transit’s taxing district or in King County suggests those votes matter more than those made by residents in Eastern Washington or elsewhere. They also found that, based upon the title, the average voter would not think that the initiative eliminates the mechanism for voters to approve future vehicle taxes (which it does). When confronted in a separate class action lawsuit about their unfair use of a depreciation schedule that they are not legally authorized to use – Sound Transit simply said it didn’t matter. The measure has been on hold for nearly a year as legal challenges worked their way through the court system. It is important to remember that Initiative 776 was first overturned at the superior court level based on the single-subject rule, including sections that mentioned Sound Transit’s bond contracts, but this was later reversed by the state Supreme Court. Initiative 976. It didn’t matter how the law was written, or how the tax is assessed, or whether the public can verify how the tax is paid. This was done likely to comply with a previous legal decision made in Pierce County II, which held that Initiative 776 “unconstitutionally impaired contracts between Sound Transit and its bondholders by limiting MVETs that Sound Transit could collect.” To get around this, I-976 attempted to tackle the bond contracts directly in order to lower the MVET. Washington’s Supreme Court takes up Initiative 976 The Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday on I-976, the so-called “$30 car tab fee” initiative run by Tim Eyman. All rights reserved. Washington state Supreme Court justices will decide whether a measure to cap car tab fees at $30 is unconstitutional. Thus, it is understandable why Eyman may have thought single-subject would not be an issue with I-976 (especially since the King County Superior Court, when considering I-976 earlier this year, ruled that it did not violate the single-subject rule). In practice, the courts have said that this means two things:  all the sections of a bill must be germane to each other and to the title of the bill, and the title of the bill must accurately reflect its contents. The initiative included several provisions, some of which represented good policy and some of which did not. Initiative 976, the $30 car tabs measure, will not go into effect until the Washington State Supreme Court hears arguments and rules on legal challenges brought by … Today they kicked off the arguments, with an emergency motion to stay Ferguson's ruling until their appeal is resolved. This set the stage for Tim Eyman to run Initiative 976 in 2019. Yesterday the court issued a ruling bypassing the Court of Appeals and taking up the case itself on an expedited schedule. In its opinion overturning I-976, the court’s decision surprisingly didn’t hinge on the impairment of contracts as it did in I-776, but instead argued that Section 12 of the bill (the language regarding Sound Transit defeasing bonds) rendered the law unconstitutional because it violated the single-subject rule by creating a separate subject from the main subject of the initiative (“limiting vehicle taxes and fees”). The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled against a voter-approved initiative to cap certain vehicle taxes and fees. I-976, the $30 car tab measure approved by voters in 2019 has been struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court. The Washington State Supreme Court has issued a ruling striking down Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 for $30 car tabs across the state. Washington Supreme Court declares Initiative 976 unconstitutional. For the court to effectively validate that line of reasoning is absurd and wrong. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. That relieves a significant burden on the state transportation budget, Sound Transit, and SDOT. Where the AG could have done a better job is in adding defeasement of bonds to the ballot summary, which said “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.”  Although the court did not ultimately base its decision on the ballot summary (separate from the ballot title), it was the subject of hot debate during oral argument and could have formed another basis for the court to strike down the initiative. The Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget assumed conservatively that I-976 would be upheld; now the city will scramble a bit to re-work its numbers, and the Council will have some more money to work with in the coming weeks. This includes his decision to not provide car tab relief during the COVID-19 emergency, while providing economic relief elsewhere. The Court found that the initiative contained multiple subjects and that its title was “deceptive and misleading.” It overturned a lower court ruling that largely upheld the initiative. The court’s ruling on this and past car tab initiatives appears to have one major implication. The accelerated review means a decision is … The initiative was brought to the state legislature by a petition sponsored by Tim Eyman. These problems could have been fixed through bipartisan collaboration and amendments, and the bill could have been passed. 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