“The power under the constitution will always be in the people. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can and undoubtedly will, be recalled.”

~ George Washington (1787)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

State Justices: "Run free, elected officials! Run free!"

"All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

Although the Washington Constitution makes clear that the people of this state are supposed to be the ultimate political authority and that the powers of the legislature are subject to the will of the people as expressed through their power of initiative and referendum, a majority of the Washington Supreme Court this morning rejected the voters' clearly and repeatedly expressed determination that the legislature's taxing power should be limited.

The most important takeaway from the majority's opinion is that the people are at the mercy of their elected officials.  If they cannot impose restrictions on the legislature through their use of the initiative, their only hope of restraining the legislature is to adopt a constitutional amendment.  But (somewhat ironically) the Washington Constitution requires amendments to originate in the legislature and to earn a two-thirds majority vote in both houses before they are referred to the voters.  As a result, the people can only impose the desired restraints if they get the cooperation of the very body they intend to restrain - which is not exactly a recipe for success because the last thing most lawmakers want is limitations on the laws they can make.  Nevertheless, if Washingtonians intend to affirm the constitution's promise that they are the state's ultimate political authority, they must elect legislators who will agree to submit to them a constitutional amendment giving the people a more adequate means of exercising that political authority.
VIA Freedom Foundation.  Check here for updates.

UPDATE:  Justice Jim Johnson on this decision, through the Freedom Foundation. Click to enlarge.