Washington State Constitutional Showdown Between Legislature and Supreme Court

So much for kumbaya.  In a throwdown to the Supreme Court, the Senate Majority Caucus of the Legislature issued this letter today to Speaker Frank Chopp, and Senate Minority Caucus leader, Senator Sharon Nelson and House Caucus leader, Rep Dan Kristiansen. 

This extraordinary order presents a clear threat to our state legislature as an institution. It demands a frank and open discussion among members and the constituents we represent regarding a proportional response.

Proportional response?  Is that a threat?

They start off saying how hard they have worked on McCleary and that they are continuing.

Legislative members will continue to debate differing ideas on the best way to improve education via reforms, prioritizing existing resources, and finding sources of new funding. These differences will be resolved through the legislative process which is the most effective means of harmonizing various geographic, economic, and philosophic divisions within a political body. 

Yes, because now the more important issue - than the paramount duty of the State in the Constitution - is to have a face-off with the Court.  

They believe the Court has violated at least five provisions of the Constitution.    

However, our concerns with the order have nothing to do with the surface issue of education funding. It is because the court's order circumvents this process, that it represents a direct challenge to the legislative role within our state constitutional system. 

The court's order directly contravenes state and federal constitutional provisions, politicizes the judiciary, and demonstrates disdain for other co-equal branches of government. Indeed, it is significant that the governor and legislature have never been served as parties to the case. While the positions outlined below are not exhaustive, they demonstrate the uncharted legal waters into which the court has so fecklessly wandered. It is worth noting that no prior court in our state's 126 year history has seen fit to issue such an order.
They end:
The constitutional crises that we and the court were warned about is here. We have all taken oaths to uphold the state constitution. We owe to our constituents and their children not only amply- funded schools but a functioning republic in this state. It is now time for us to explore the range of political, legal, and constitutional responses that we have at our disposal. Please let us know at your earliest convenience how you and your respective caucuses intend to proceed. 

Fasten your seatbelts.


Anonymous said…
Oh, my.

I don't think these folks took civics in high school. Balance of Powers, anyone (Bueller, Bueller, Bueller)?

And further, it is not about "improving education via reforms."


Watching said…
The legislature will not convene because there is no agreement/plan to fund education.

The legislature was ordered to provide opportunity-not outcome. Yet, the legislature continues to focus on "reforms".

I've heard, from a good source, that there is a plan and systems will be in place by 2018. I suspect we're looking at prek, and Road Map's Cradle to College.
Anonymous said…
this is what the re-thugs SHOULD do. Since well before Ed Murray being Senate Cowardly Leader, or Grovelling Gregroire, or Sell 'Em Out Locke, Washington State Democrats have been the worst, most pathetic, diaper wetting cowards on 2 feet - except when they're just sell outs.

This is Anti-Community Playbook 101 - come out strong, attack, attack, attack ... and wait for the the grovelling sniveling cowards to fall all over themselves accepting the attack definitions of 'moderate' and 'bipartisan' and ...

For 35 years in D.C. and in state capitals, revenue policy, hence spending policy, has been dictated by the fantasies of the Laffer Curve - let the bandits keep more of what they took, and it will trickle back down to the lowly villagers. Honestly, WHY should Hill or any of 'em change tactics, when they work

dan dempsey said…
How interesting ... Turf Wars reign (and kids lose).

I was always wondering why is was OK to ignore constitutional requirements until 2018. Would any group other than kids have to put up with such a delay?

By 2018 does the legislature plan to fully fund education?
It seems hard to tell at this point.

The legislature has thus far failed to inform anyone of how the salaries of k-12 employees will be fully funded from State monies in 2018.

According to Utter and Spitzer (2002), the "paramount duty" language in Section 1 is some of the strongest language in any state constitution governing the duty of a state to guarantee the education "of all children residing within its borders."

==Article IX:
It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex

Looks like perhaps some legislators want a "new Article IX of the constitution".... or just a new oath of office where obeying the state constitution is not necessary.

Otherwise shouldn't some legislators be subject to recall for violating their oath of office?

Chris S. said…
Obviously the legislature does not want to be reelected. Republic my a$$!
Anonymous said…
This is starting to have all the intrigue of some West coast East coast rap war.
LWA, Legislators With Attitude.

I mean, what is the worst that can happen? The court sequesters the rest of the budget and pays for education first, just as the republicans first proposed?

I don't really see the court instituting a capital gains tax or income tax on their own accord.

Anonymous said…
The Legislature (especially the Senate Majority) would be wise to tone it down a bit and get to work. The Supreme Court has more than one tactical nuke in it's arsenal.

For example, they could declare each and every member of the Senate Majority Caucus to be in Felony Contempt, which would immediately disqualify them from holding office and would remove their voting rights. Poof. "What Senate Majority Caucus? All we see are a bunch of felons who used to be legislators..."

Do not trifle in the affairs of the Supreme Court, for they are subtle and quick to anger...

Court Watcher
Charlie Mas said…
The Senate Majority Coalition is concerned about a constitutional crisis? There is an easy solution for them: comply with the requirements of the constitution.
Anonymous said…
The Senate majority coalition did start (and end) their budget with adding $1.3 billion to K-12 education, similar to what they had done in the previous biennial budget.

According to the Attorney General "Since 2012 the State has increased biennial operating funding for K-12 education by nearly $5 billion—from $13.4 billion to $18.2 billion . . . This amounts to an increase of nearly $2,500 per pupil per year. The 2015 Legislature not only increased K-12 funding by approximately $2.9 billion over the prior biennium, but also appropriated $811 million for capital construction supporting K-12 education."

The decades of one-party rule in Washington were the time period over which the huge hole in education funding leading to the McCleary decision developed. The new Senate majority has prioritized this 36% increase over just the last two budgets, so I don't think the new majority in one legislative body is to blame here.

Lynn said…

I'm with Dan Dempsey here. "I was always wondering why is was OK to ignore constitutional requirements until 2018. Would any group other than kids have to put up with such a delay?"

Failing to fulfill their duty under the constitution just a little bit less than last year is still a failure.
Anonymous said…
Court Watcher - that would be a beautiful (IMO) next step. You provide the big-screen TV - I'll bring the popcorn.


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