February 27, 2013 at 3:25 PM
OLYMPIA — The Washington State Supreme Court is expected to rule Thursday whether requiring a two-thirds majority for lawmakers to raise taxes is constitutional.
One way or another, the ruling could affect lawmakers who are now trying to close a roughly $1 billion budget shortfall and deal with the court’s last major decision — last year’s order to significantly increase funding for public schools.
In general, Democrats are looking toward new taxes while Republicans do not favor tax increases. A ruling that the two-thirds requirement is constitutional, then, would boost the GOP. A ruling the other way would allow taxes to be increased with a simple majority vote.
But it’s not a given the Legislature would approve new taxes even if the court overturns the two-thirds requirement. Republicans control the state Senate and oppose any tax increase. And Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has said he would not approve new taxes, although he’s indicated he’s open to extending existing taxes.
The court’s ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by the League of Education Voters and other groups against Initiative 1053, a 2010 initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman that reinstated the two-thirds requirement. The two-thirds restriction was first authorized by voters in 1993. It was reimposed in 1998, 2007 and 2010, at least in part because of lawmakers’ penchant for suspending the requirement to raise more revenue.
The court has been asked to rule on the constitutionality in the past, and each time has avoided a direct decision.
November 6, 2012 at 9:09 PM
Update: 9:08 p.m.
Longtime appellate attorney Sheryl Gordon McCloud defeated former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders for a six-year term on the state Supreme Court.
McCloud was leading with 56 percent of the vote, including more than 64 percent in vote-heavy King County.
Sanders served on the court for 15 years before losing his seat two years ago amid controversial remarks about certain minority groups having a crime problem.
Both candidates portrayed themselves as passionate defenders of constitutional rights.
But in their battle to replace Justice Tom Chambers, who is retiring from the court, McCloud criticized Sanders for making what she called “intemperate comments” when he served on the bench was a justice.
September 27, 2012 at 10:10 AM
There has already been much debate over whether racial bias was partly responsible for the surprising vote totals racked up in the August primary by Bruce Danielson, a little known candidate for the state Supreme Court.
Although he raised no money and ran no campaign, Danielson won 30 of Washington’s 39 counties and got nearly 40 percent of the statewide vote in his race against State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez.
Gonzalez won the election and will appear unopposed on the November ballot, but the primary results raised questions about whether a large chunk of voters, particularly in Eastern and Central Washington, had opposed him due to his Latino surname.
Now Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political science professor, has released an analysis that shows “racial voting bias” indeed played a role in the Danielson-Gonzalez race.
Voters in Central Washington had little information available about the contest because the state declined to print a voters guide due to budget cuts. The nonpartisan race also offered no clue on the ballot as to the partisan ideology of the candidates. Gonzalez had campaigned in the area, raised $300,000, was regarded as highly qualified, and won the endorsement of the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Yet voters in Grant and Yakima counties overwhelmingly marked their ballots for Danielson, the virtually unknown lawyer from Kitsap County. In fact, Danielson outperformed the top Republican candidates for governor (Rob McKenna) and Senate (Michael Baumgartner) in the area. Danielson got more support than Baumgartner in every precinct in Yakima County.
The UW analysis looked at the results in heavily white precincts versus heavily Latino precincts and found deep racial polarization.
In Yakima County, the regression estimates that across all precincts 68.6 percent of Latinos
voted for González while just 25.1 percent of non-Latinos voted for Gonzalez – a 43 point
voting differential between Latinos and non-Latinos. Analyzing Grant County results yields
very similar trends. Based on the data across precincts, the model estimates that González
received 68.7 percent of the Latino vote and 29.5 percent of the non-Latino vote – a 39 point
Danielson has suggested voters may have looked at his web site and liked his conservative views on the Constitution – in other words, voting for him based on ideology rather than race.
But Barreto found no evidence for that. In addition to Danielson outshining well-known conservatives like McKenna, Barreto noted that Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens, generally described as “center-left” in her ideology, received 60.5 percent of the vote in Yakima County against lesser known opponents who did not have Latino last names.
The results show that, had it been up to Eastern and Central Washington, Gonzalez would have lost to a vastly less qualified opponent who did not even campaign. The fact that he won was only attributable to more populous Western Washington counties. “That should set off serious question marks,” Barreto said.
In an op-ed in The Seattle Times, Barreto and David Perez, an attorney with Perkins Coie, argue that Washington should pass a Voting Rights Act to give a better shot to Latino candidates in Central Washington, who struggle against the same “racially polarized headwinds” that showed up in the Gonzalez-Danielson race.
That law would push cities and counties toward district-voting systems, which have proven to elect more racial minority candidates than citywide or countywide elections.
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