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”). Initiative 976 was ruled unconstitutional by the court because it violated the state’s single-subject rule. 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 accelerated review means a decision is … 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. 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. It can be raised, but it can never be lowered again. 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 Washington Supreme Court ruled Initiative 976 unconstitutional On Oct. 15, 2020, the Washington Supreme Court ruled Initiative 976 (I-976) unconstitutional. Meanwhile, taxpayers continued paying high car tab tax overcharges. OLYMPIA — A unanimous state Supreme Court on Thursday (Oct. 15) struck down the $30 car-tab initiative passed by voters in 2019. Rather than admitting error and working to restore public trust, Sound Transit has dug in its heels, refusing to be accountable to the public. 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. 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. Washington Supreme Court declares Initiative 976 unconstitutional. 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 Supreme Court allowed an injunction against the initiative stand last December days before it was meant to take effect. 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 court’s ruling on this and past car tab initiatives appears to have one major implication. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! 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. 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. With today’s ruling, I-976 is officially dead. Copyright (C) 2014-2020, Kevin Schofield. 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. Voter-approved Initiative 976 to lower car tabs unconstitutional, Washington Supreme Court rules Initiative 976, which would cap car tabs at $30, … Initiative Measure No. 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 court ruled on Thursday that Initiative I-976, which would cap car tabs at $30, is unconstitutional. 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. 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. Sound Transit has always had the ability to be fair and honest, and to correct car tab overcharges on their own. 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. 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. That relieves a significant burden on the state transportation budget, Sound Transit, and SDOT. 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 … I-976 was approved by voters in November 2019. 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. 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. The initiative is preceded by a long, 20-year history of voters asking for $30 car tabs. The Washington State Supreme Court has issued a ruling striking down Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 for $30 car tabs across the state. 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. If you did, please take a moment to make a contribution to support my ongoing work. You may recall that on March 12 Judge Ferguson ruled on the two motions for … 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. The court decision settles the fate of more than $4 billion in transportation revenue. 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. 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. OLYMPIA, Wash. - The state Supreme Court has struck down the voter-approved $30 car tab initiative. 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. Still, past experience with courts scrutinizing language regarding bond contracts should have been a clear indicator that a new approach was needed to address Sound Transit’s MVET in a more defensible and bulletproof way. The ruling could have significant financial consequences for transit agencies such as Sound Transit that rely on motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) revenue. The Washington Supreme Court has unanimously struck down Eyman's Initiative 976, a measure that would have steeply discounted the price of … The Mayor, City Attorney, SDOT and City Council President have already sent out press releases this morning celebrating the overturning of I-976. It was found to be unconstitutional for violating the … 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. Today, all nine justices of the Washington Supreme Court found Initiative 976 to be unconstitutional. I hope you found this article valuable. The decision to keep I-976 as it was turned out to be a mistake. 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. 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. First, the legislature granted Sound Transit authority to tax and collect motor vehicle excise taxes (MVET) using an outdated depreciation schedule. 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. The Governor has not shown any decisive leadership on this issue over the years it has been publicly debated. 976 ( I-976) is a ballot initiative in the U.S. state of Washington that appeared on the ballot on November 5, 2019. 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. The Court did not rule on any of the other issues raised in the appeal. The Sound Transit 3 package on November 2016 ballots had ballooned to a $54 billion plan. I-976, the $30 car tab measure approved by voters in 2019 has been struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court. The ruling leaves all affected taxes, fees, and … 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. 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. Yet, because of partisan politics, Democrats and Republicans did not come to any agreement in 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020. 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. 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. 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. 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. Tim Eyman attacked Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s defense of I-976 in a letter sent on Thanksgiving. 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. 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. One was that the initiative contains unrelated local and statewide effects. 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. 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. Washington's budget office estimated that I-976 would have slashed as much as $4 billion in state tax revenue by 2025. Since I-976’s section 12 is mandatory, the court found, it is a separate subject. OLYMPIA, WA — The Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday ruled Initiative 976 unconstitutional, striking down a measure approved by voters … The initiative included several provisions, some of which represented good policy and some of which did not. How to contact your Seattle City Council members. 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. Senator Steve O’Ban (R-Lakewood) proposed multiple bills year after year to try to fix this problem, but the bills were never moved. 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. AunanimousstateSupremeCourtstruckdownthe$30car-tabinitiativepassedbyvotersin2019. Therefore, the provisions of the initiative will not be implemented. The measure has been on hold for nearly a year as legal challenges worked their way through the court system. 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). 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. 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.”. Thanks! 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. This morning the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Initiative 976, Tim Eyman’s most recent “$30 car tabs” effort, is unconstitutional. Today they kicked off the arguments, with an emergency motion to stay Ferguson's ruling until their appeal is resolved. 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. As such, they said, the title is deceptive and misleading — also unconstitutional under Article II Section 19. 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”. This morning the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Initiative 976, Tim Eyman’s most recent “$30 car tabs” effort, is unconstitutional. The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled against a voter-approved initiative to cap certain vehicle taxes and fees. Justices said Initiative 976 violated provisions of the state Constitution which limit the scope of ballot measures to no more than one topic. 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.. 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 state Supreme Court held a hearing Tuesday on I-976, the voter-approved $30 car tab initiative backed by Tim Eyman. Washington state Supreme Court justices will decide whether a measure to cap car tab fees at $30 is unconstitutional. 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. 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. 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. This set the stage for Tim Eyman to run Initiative 976 in 2019. The second was that the initiative combined one-time required actions with broader systematic changes. 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. Wordy and nerdy. This includes his decision to not provide car tab relief during the COVID-19 emergency, while providing economic relief elsewhere. The initiative was brought to the state legislature by a petition sponsored by Tim Eyman. The initiative is preceded by a long, 20-year history of voters asking for $30 car tabs. 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. 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. All nine justices agreed that I-976 contains an impermissible second subject in section 12. The Supreme Court ruling is the end of the road for I-976, which was the brainchild of anti-tax activist Tim Eyman. The Court emphasized that it reads ballot titles “as the average informed lay voter would,” not as skilled attorneys would parse them. 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. 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