(sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”, lyrics only)
Right wing think tank WPC pushes for state constitutional amendment about super-majority requirements
This website has published a series of articles challenging the constitutionality of I-1053, the voter initiative that imposes a 2/3 super-majority requirement on the legislature to raise taxes or eliminate tax breaks. See I-1053 is apparently unconstitutional, How our legislators should deal with I-1053 and the references therein.
The issue of the constitutionality of I-1053 has now come up in right wing media in Washington State.
As background, according to SECTION 22 PASSAGE OF BILLS of the Washington State Constitution, “No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.” (emphasis added)
Several Democratic legislative district organizations and the King County Democratic Committee have passed resolutions calling on legislators to disregard I-1053 in view of its apparent unconstitutionality. See Resolution on ending tax breaks. Meanwhile, a Poll shows strong support for repealing WA tax breaks to fund Basic Health.
Washington Policy Center is a conservative think tank with offices in Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, and the Tri-Cities. They support anti-tax, small government policies and have been allies with Tim Eyman on I-1053 and other initiatives.
Jason Mercier, the director of the Center for Government Reform at WPC, recently published an article Supermajority voting is a basic part of Washington state’s democracy which has two aims. First, it lists examples from the Washington State Constitution in which super-majority votes are required for the legislature to take certain actions. Consequently, according to Mercier, super-majority requirements are not undemocratic.
Mercier asks, “Is Washington’s state constitution undemocratic? Some opponents of supermajority vote requirements seem to think so.”
But the issue isn’t whether super-majority requirements are undemocratic in general. The issue is whether the specific super-majority requirements in I-1053 and similar initiatives are constitutional. For normal bills, a majority of legislators suffices. And the state constitution also says you can’t amend the constitution by mere citizen initiative (Article XXIII, Amendments).
The second aim of Mecier’s article is to raise the option of amending Washington State’s constitution, to settle once and for all the matter of super-majority requirements such as I-1053’s. Mercier writes, “One way to resolve the ongoing debate over whether voters truly want lawmakers to be restricted by the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases is for the legislature to refer the question to voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. ”
The question of the constitutionality has been brought before the State Supreme Court by Senate President Brad Owen, but the Court refused to rule on the issue.
The fact that the constitution explicitly calls out actions requiring super-majority votes suggests that by default a majority vote suffices, as specified in Section 2 above.
The final determination of the constitutionality of I-1053 belongs to the State Supreme Court.
I-1053 was approved by 64% of voters. There is a two-thirds super-majority requirement for amending the Constitution.
Will two thirds of voters vote against their own self-interest and amend the constitution?
Had we elected Dennis Kucinich, pretending that were possible, I wonder just how that would have translated into Republican votes for progressive legislation, fewer filibusters, or a diminished corporate influence on Congress.
President Bush managed to ram his agenda through. As it turns out, there are no corporate interests opposing deregulation, or tax cuts, or wars, or Patriot Acts. Had Bush taken on the oil companies, or wall street, or insurance companies, it would have been a very different story. Understand that progressive public policy is vociferously and effectively opposed by the big money interests that wield tremendous influence over Congress. Conservative policies are not.
Obama didn’t draw a line in the sand on the public option because, even without it, health care reform survived by the skin of its teeth. Wall street reform was weak, but a more aggressive bill would not likely have been approved by the Senate. A flaccid energy bill cleared the House and died in the Senate. I fail to see how righteous demands and stamping of feet by the President would have changed any outcome.
Let’s take a look at foreign policy. Obama promised to wind down the war in Iraq: Check. He promised to escalate in Afghanistan: Check. He promised to concentrate the fight on the Pak-Afghan border where the terrorists actually were: Check. The Libyan situation warrants scrutiny, as does the continued existence of Gitmo, and the practice of extraordinary rendition. But are these controversial policy matters sufficient to undermine the Obama presidency, weaken his chances for re-election, and depress Democratic voter turnout in 2012? I hope not.
The Cabinet is suspect as well. I could do without Geithner, Summers, Holder, Salazar, and probably a few others. I would much prefer an administration staffed with the likes of Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, and Eliot Spitzer. But what real difference would a more progressive cabinet have made? Would fewer mortgages be underwater? Unemployment lower? Would fulfillment of the TARP bailout not have been necessary? Would DADT have been repealed? Glass Steagall reinstated? Would the BP oil spill have been prevented? Off shore drilling banned? The Dream Act passed into law?
Sure, there have been plenty of disappointments. I expected that, because there were disappointments in the primary. Obama’s pledge to escalate in Afghanistan, unwillingness to support gay marriage, refusal to categorically oppose capital punishment or investigate the Bush Administration, and affinity for a bi-partisan cabinet are several that come to mind.
Obama promised too much, and we expected too much, but then, John McCain isn’t president, and Sarah Palin’s flanderings are of little worry or embarrassment to the country. It’s time to get back on the bandwagon. A Republican victory in 2012, given the Tea Party influence and Supreme Court ramifications, is unthinkable.
I’m back in the game, proud of the President, and just as enthused about, and willing to work for, an Obama victory in 2012 as in 2008.
Anyone care to join me?
Critter’s Crap breaks down economics for us. It’s really quite clear.
Over a long period of time, the numbers show that the economy grows at a rate of 2.1%. We can and should have a discussion about steady state economics in light of resource depletion, but for the purpose of evaluating economic activity, income and wealth growth and distribution, Critter’s work is on the money (so to speak).
Here’s the 2.1% growth rate graph
That alarming dip at the end is the 2008 Great Recession. Will the economy bounce back to the historical 2.1% rate? Probably will, but the other possibility is that the world will end on May 21st and this discussion will be moot. Let’s assume the former rather than the latter, shall we?
So that graph suggests that the economy has grown at a pretty steady rate over time regardless of tax policy. Critter goes on to look at income distribution under the various tax schemes that have been in effect in the time from of this graph and shared the following:
That looks pretty fair. A lot of folks doing fairly well under the “onerous” tax rates that existed prior to the coming of Ronald Raygun.
But take a look at what happened to income distribution since Mr. R showed up and started spewing his economic nonsense:
I understand that many Americans can’t make heads or tails of economics and that certainly goes a ways to explain how the electorate falls for the suggestion that a flattened tax rate is going to do us all good, but the numbers are clear. A flattened tax rate does the top 1% a lot of good and it hurts the rest of us. The income is simply redistributed from the middle class to the really, really wealthy. Check your last tax return. If your gross income is not in the millions range, you are not really, really wealthy. Sorry to break it to you. You may be comfortable, maybe you can afford a really nice car, vacations in the sun, and more, but you are not up in that range where your income grew by 403% in the last 28 years.
I know that I go over this whole economic thing on a regular basis, but as long as so many folks who can figure out how to mark a ballot continue to misunderstand the economics of taxes and income distribution, I think the work is not done on this topic.
Tax the rich. If you have read this far, you are not rich. The rich know all of this and don’t spend any time worrying about it. They are getting the ride of a lifetime, but the rest of are finding the ride a trifle bumpy. When the rightwingers claim that lower tax rates will cause the economy to grow, remember that chart at the top. 2.1% growth over a very long period of time.
Thanks to Critter for the good work. Go read Critter’s take on all this. It seems to get him going a bit, so if you are frightened by the F Bomb, better just stick with my PG review of Critter’s work.
Washington State is undergoing redistricting, in response to changes in population.
At Sunday’s Legislative Action Committee meeting, Sarajane Siegfriedt passed around a redistricting map of King County. Districts which have grown in population (compared to the average) are shown in red and need to shrink. Districts which have shrunk in population (compared to the average) are shown in green and need to grow. There are no red districts in Seattle, but some in King County. Seattle grew, but more slowly, so the Seattle LDs have to grow north, south or east. All the green districts along Puget Sound have to add people to get to the average LD size of 137,236. All of east King County is red, having grown faster than average. For example, the very red (and Republican) 5th LD has to shed 22,000 people, making the 48th, 41st and 47th more conservative when they absorb those voters on their boundaries.
Here’s the map. Click on it for a bigger version.
For example, one likely or possible outcome of redistricting is that the 41st LD (where I live) may move east. Mercer Island may merge with the district to the west. This may have the beneficial effect of returning a Democrat to the State Senate and of enabling more progressive Democrats in the House.
Some years ago a state law was enacted that prohibited gerrymandering. Districts must be contiguous, must have near-equal population,and must follow local political, ethnic, or racial subdivisions. The redistricting commission must be bipartisan. Still, interested citizens are encouraged to attend public hearings on the issue. As Washington Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz says:
Don’t go to testify that “I want to keep living in the 67th LD.”, or “If you draw the line north of Main Street we can keep this a Democratic District.” But by speaking to the above criteria you can provide support to the Democrats on the Re-Districting Commission to ensure that a fair map is drawn.
If you are unable to attend these hearings in person, they will also be available via webcast and broadcast on TWV. In addition to the public hearings, you can submit written and electronic comments to the commission or even create plans of your own. More information about getting involved can be found http://www.redistricting.wa.gov/.
Scheduled Public Forums and Commissioner Meetings
The agenda for public forums*:
6 p.m. – Pre-forum Open House
6:30 p.m. – Introduction of Commissioners, Redistricting Overview
7 p.m. – Public Comment and Meeting Summary
9 p.m. – Closing Comments
Commissioner Meetings begin at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.*
|Public Forum||Aberdeen||Tuesday, May 17||Grays Harbor College HUB, 1620 Edward P. Smith Drive|
|Public Forum||Olympia||Wednesday, May 18||John A. Cherberg Building, 304 15th Ave. Senate Hearing Room 1|
|Public Forum||Vancouver||Thursday, May 19||Hilton Vancouver Hotel, 301 West 6th St, Discovery Ballroom ABC|
|Public Forum||Renton||Monday, May 23||Renton, Renton Technical College cafeteria, 3000 NE 4th St.|
|Public Forum||Bellevue||Tuesday, May 24||Red Lion Hotel Bellevue, Evergreen Point Room, 11211 Main St.|
|Public Forum||Everett||Wednesday, May 25||Everett Community College, Jackson Conference Center, 2000 Tower St.|
|Public Forum||Bellingham||Thursday, May 26||Western Washington University, Academic West Building, AW204|
|Public Forum||Pasco||Tuesday, June 7||TBD|
|Public Forum||Yakima||Wednesday, June 8||TBD|
|Public Forum||Wenatchee||Thursday, June 9||TBD|
|Public Forum||Seattle||Monday, June 13||TBD|
|Commissioner Meeting||Olympia||Tuesday, June 14||J A Cherberg Bldg. – Hearing Room 3|
|Public Forum||Auburn||Tuesday, June 14||TBD|
|Public Forum||Bremerton||Thursday, June 30||TBD|
|Public Forum||Tacoma||Monday, July 11||TBD|
|Public Forum||Spokane||Tuesday, July 12||TBD|
|Commissioner Meeting||TBD||Tuesday, June 14||TBD|
|Public Forum||Walla Walla||Wednesday, July 13||TBD|
|Public Forum||Moses Lake||Thursday, July 14||TBD|
|Commissioner Meeting||Olympia||Tuesday, August 9||J A Cherberg Bldg. – Hearing Room 3|
|Commissioner Meeting||Olympia||Tuesday, September 13||J A Cherberg Bldg. – Hearing Room 3|
|Commissioner Meeting||Olympia||Tuesday, October 11||J A Cherberg Bldg. – Hearing Room 3|
|Commissioner Meeting||Olympia||Tuesday, November 8||J A Cherberg Bldg. – Hearing Room 3|
|Commissioner Meeting||Olympia||Tuesday, December 13||J A Cherberg Bldg. – Hearing Room 3|
*Meeting dates, times and locations are subject to change