(The Center Square) – A Thurston County Superior Court judge has granted the state of Washington summary judgment in a lawsuit against the Legislature’s 2022 transportation package that plaintiffs behind the lawsuit argued violated the state constitution.
At a Friday hearing, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson sided with the state and other intervening parties that the 2022 package not did violate the state Constitution’s provisions regarding subjects and bill titles. Under Article 2 Section 19, the constitution stipulates that “no bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.”
The Citizen Action Defense Fund, represented through outside counsel, argued that the package violated this constitutional requirement by including a variety of new taxes and fees. The state’s argument is that the various bill provisions fit within the constitution because they fit within the same overall topic or subject.
Prior to the hearing, Citizens Action Defense Fund Executive Director Jackson Mayard said in a statement that the issue “is not just about trying to help people with sky-high gas prices and license fees, it is also a chance to make sure the state constitution is followed so that the legislature can’t play word games with laws. The need for transparency is exactly why this provision of the state constitution exists.”
In her verdict rendering summary judgment, Wilson concurred with the state’s assertions, noting that prior case law calls for interpretations “be liberally construed in favor of the legislation” and that “a challenger who brings a challenge bears heavy burden of establishing that the law is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Wilson also stated that prior case law views omnibus bills covering general topics “and include a variety of pieces of action are not by themselves unconstitutional.” She said that interpreting the single-subject clause strictly, as the plaintiffs requested, “would be at odds with presuming laws to be constitutional.”
Yet, Wilson noted that “the arguments made by the challengers are fair arguments, because there are many subtopics addressed in this act,” though she added “the topics, if you will, come together, hang together, on a general topic.”
According to the Citizens Defense Fund, had the bill been overturned it would have resulted in a $500 million tax burden reduction.