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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

March 6, 2013 at 6:11 PM

Days after losing state Supreme Court case, Republicans seek to lay off justices

OLYMPIA — Struggling to respond to a state Supreme Court order to put more money into education, some state Senate Republicans on Wednesday came up with a way to save a bit of money: reduce the size of the court.

Senate Bill 5867, introduced Wednesday morning, would reduce the court from nine members to five (the minimum allowed in the state constitution).

And how would the four out-of-luck justices be chosen?

“On June 30, 2013, all existing judges of the state supreme court, shall meet in public to cast lots by drawing straws,” the bill says. “Effective July 1,2013, the positions of the four judges casting losing lots by drawing the shortest straws shall be terminated.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, said the job cuts could save about $1.5 million in salary and administrative costs.

Baumgartner, R-Spokane Valley, used two of the court’s recent decisions — both of which went against conservatives — to argue in favor of the bill.

Last year, the court decided in the McCleary case that the state was not fulfilling its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. And last week, the court declared unconstitutional an initiative-imposed two-thirds requirement for lawmakers to raise taxes.

“Every dollar we save by eliminating these four positions would be automatically funneled to K-12 education to help meet the guidelines the Supreme Court laid out in the McCleary decision,” Baumgartner said in a news release.

He added that, “based on their recent rulings on McCleary and their rationale behind the decision to throw out the will of the people regarding the two-thirds tax rule, I expect that the court will support this approach.”

The bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing.

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: McCleary, Michael Baumgartner, State Supreme Court


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