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Judge rules legislature violated constitution in controversial passage of deadly-force initiative

Friday afternoon, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller ruled that the legislature’s controversial passage of both Initiative 940 and HB 3003, related to police deadly-force laws, violated the state constitution. The judge has ordered the secretary of state to include I-940 on the November ballot.

During the final week of the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers passed both I-940, an initiative to the legislature, as well as HB 3003, a bill that amends I-940. As an initiative to the legislature, lawmakers could either pass it, send it to the ballot, or draft an alternative to appear alongside the initiative. By passing a bill that amends the initiative, they effectively created a fourth option.

A week after session concluded, Tim Eyman filed a lawsuit against the state claiming they had violated the state constitution with this fourth option and demanded that both the initiative and HB 3003 appear on the ballot. Then, two weeks later Senator Mike Padden joined the ongoing litigation. Padden had been one of the more outspoken legislators against the passage of HB 3003 during debate on the Senate floor.

Attorneys Joel Ard and David DeWolf represented Eyman and Padden, respectively during the court hearing on Friday. Here are their closing arguments.

Following the ruling, Senator Padden released the following statement:

“Today’s ruling was a victory for the constitution and the rule of law… The Legislature made a terrible mistake this year when it tried to cut voters out of the loop.

“This is an unusual case. Everyone seems to like the Legislature’s proposal better – the sponsors, the Legislature, even me.

“But the principle is what counts… The Legislature should never be able to avoid a public vote by enacting an initiative and amending it. The constitution says the initiative is the ‘first power reserved by the people,’ and lawmakers need to respect that.

“Now we must determine whether the Legislature can submit an alternative for the ballot at this late date. If it is legally possible, a special session will be required. The majority party could have spared considerable trouble if it had accepted an amendment I offered on the Senate floor to place the Legislature’s proposal on the ballot as an alternative. Following the rules may be inconvenient sometimes, but protecting the people’s rights is more important. The Legislature must never forget that.”

This article has been updated to include Sen. Padden’s statement.

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