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Tim Eyman sues state over price tag on Initiative 1185; will represent himself in court

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Aug. 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
January 28, 2013 6:29 pm

Eyman’s latest offering to voters requires two-thirds votes in the Legislature to raise taxes and requires the elected Legislature, not appointed officials, to approve state fees (by simple majorities.) So I-1185 is nearly a carbon copy of Eyman’s successful 2010 initiative, I-1053.

Yet the official statement written by Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s budget office for the voters’ pamphlet is a lot longer this time around than it was in 2010, when the office claimed I-1053 would have no direct impact on the budget.

What happened in between? Attorney General Rob McKenna‘s office offered some legal advice about how I-1053 would work. Responding to inquiries from Eyman’s allies, McKenna’s staff said lawmakers could continue delegating their power to set fees despite the initiative — but would have to take new votes to do so. I-1053 essentially “reset” fee-setting power.

Gregoire’s Office of Financial Management says I-1185 would do the same thing. For example, the Transportation Commission wouldn’t be able to raise tolls on the Tacoma Narrows bridge or other toll projects without legislative approval — or without the Legislature re-delegating its power. The office said that would reduce state revenue by $22.8 million to $33.1 million from the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement alone, the only planned toll project where it could quantify the loss.

Eyman said because I-1185 basically repeats I-1053 with some minor tweaking, while I-1053 made some more substantial changes, it shouldn’t be viewed as having the same “reset” effect. He sued the state today, asking a Thurston County Superior Court judge to make OFM rewrite the statement. He said a hearing is scheduled for Aug. 24.

OFM Director Marty Brown said his office consulted McKenna’s attorneys and stands by its statement.

All this comes as Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office is trying to create and print voters’ pamphlets and get them out in time for voting.

Eyman said he’s acting as his own lawyer for the first time, since the attorneys who usually represent him weren’t available.

He seemed excited about the chance to bring his showmanship to a courtroom, relishing the thought of grilling state officials in the style of TV courtroom dramas.

“All the years I watched “L.A. Law” and “The Practice” and “Boston Legal,” he joked, “My God, who needs law school.”

UPDATE 5:05 p.m.: OFM’s Julie Murray says the attorney general’s staff has advised her office that it is “a reasonable assumption” that I-1185 would have the same “reset” effect as I-1053.

(Murray said that’s a more precise description of the legal advice she received, after first saying flatly that the AG’s office confirmed the reset.)

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