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Government agencies call I-976 'poorly drafted hodge-podge' in lawsuit

King County, the city of Seattle and a handful of transit agencies have filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop Initiative 976 from taking effect.

SEATTLE — Several agencies in the Puget Sound area, including King County and the city of Seattle, have filed a lawsuit to prevent Initiative 976 from taking effect.

Last week, voters approved I-976, a measure that would cap all car tab fees at $30.  

In response to the measure, King County, the city of Seattle, the Port of Seattle, Washington State Transit Association, Amalgamated Transit Union Legislative Council of Washington, Garfield County Transportation Authority, Intercity Transit, Association of Washington Cities and civilian Michael Rogers have filed a joint suit to stop the Initiative. 

Those in the suit claim that I-976 is "a poorly drafted hodge-podge that violates multiple provisions of the Constitution, including the Single Subject Rule." 

The Single Subject Rule prevents bills from containing more than one subject, and that subject should be expressed in the title. 

"By violating the prohibition on single subject, the initiative improperly attempted to win support by hiding unpopular provisions among more popular ones, without clearly spelling out what some of those provisions were.  In addition to being misleading, voters would no longer be able to approve local transportation-related investments as the need arises. The initiative would 'decimate funding particularly for local transportation and transit projects, including many that have already been approved by local voters,'" the plaintiffs said in a joint press release. 

Also see | When will car tabs cost $30 in Washington?

Each agency breaks down what they say the initiative would cost them, with several arguing that they would lose tens of millions of dollars and others saying jobs and services would be cut. 

The initiative could cost state and local governments over $4 billion in revenue over the next six years, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

Initiative sponsor, Tim Eyman, said the state should use reserves and the Rainy Day Fund to pay for construction projects.

Washington state Sen. Steve O’Ban urged the Attorney General’s Office to remove itself from defending any lawsuit challenging the car tab cap. 

O’Ban, a Republican who has pushed for lower car tab fees, wrote a letter to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson urging the state to hire outside counsel to defend I-976. 

“Washingtonians deserve to have their laws defended by unbiased legal advocates free of conflicts,” O’Ban wrote in a letter sent Monday.

O’Ban claimed that pending litigation “raises concerns” about the Attorney General’s Office ability to defend I-976. 

Ferguson has filed a campaign finance lawsuit against Eyman. 

Also see | Lawmaker wants outside counsel to defend possible I-976 lawsuit 

The plaintiffs plan on filing a separate injunction, which would "prevent and permanently enjoin I-976 from taking effort of being enforced by any Washington official."

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