Ruling sends I-940 to fall ballot; Padden sees victory for constitutional rights

OLYMPIA — Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, offered the following reaction to a ruling Friday in Thurston County Superior Court sending Initiative 940 to the November ballot. Padden was among the plaintiffs in Eyman v. Wyman, which maintains the Legislature disregarded the constitution this year by amending the initiative without giving the people a chance to vote.

As a result of the ruling, I-940, which concerns the police use of deadly force, will advance to the ballot alone in its original un-amended form. The constitution allows the Legislature to place an alternative proposal on the ballot, giving the people the chance to choose between the two proposals. But because the Legislature did not formally adopt an alternative proposal for the ballot while it was in session, Schaller said the Legislature’s amended version cannot be considered an alternative.

Padden said:

“Today’s ruling was a victory for the constitution and the rule of law. When the people collect enough signatures to place an initiative before the Legislature, the constitution gives lawmakers only three options. We can pass it without changes, we can send it to the ballot and allow the people to decide, or the legislature can write an alternative to appear beside the original proposal on the fall ballot. That way the people get to decide which option they prefer.

“There is no fourth option. Nor should there be. The Legislature made a terrible mistake this year when it tried to cut voters out of the loop.

“This is an unusual case. Everyone seems to like the Legislature’s proposal better – the sponsors, the Legislature, even me.

“But the principle is what counts. It’s not easy placing an issue before the Legislature – sponsors collected more than 350,000 signatures. The Legislature should never be able to avoid a public vote by enacting an initiative and amending it. The constitution says the initiative is the ‘first power reserved by the people,’ and lawmakers need to respect that.

“Now we must determine whether the Legislature can submit an alternative for the ballot at this late date. If it is legally possible, a special session will be required. The majority party could have spared considerable trouble if it had accepted an amendment I offered on the Senate floor to place the Legislature’s proposal on the ballot as an alternative. Following the rules may be inconvenient sometimes, but protecting the people’s rights is more important. The Legislature must never forget that.”