Amalgamated Transit v. State

Decision Date26 October 2000
Docket NumberNo. 69433-8.,69433-8.
Citation11 P.3d 762,142 Wash.2d 183,142 Wn.2d 183
PartiesAMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 587, Respondent, v. STATE of Washington, Appellant. Vashon-Maury Island Community Council, Respondent, v. State of Washington, Appellant. City of Bainbridge Island, Respondent, v. State of Washington, Appellant. Tacoma Water, Respondent, v. State of Washington, Appellant. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Respondent, v. State of Washington, Appellant. Port of Whitman County, Respondent, v. State of Washington, and the "$30 License Tab" Initiative 695 Committee, Appellants. Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Respondent, v. State of Washington, Appellant, and The $30 License Tab Initiative Campaign, Appellant-Intervenor.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Richard Spoonemore, Lonnie Davis, Seattle, Amicus Curiae on Behalf of Conley "Gene" Kincheloe, Josie L. Schindler, Washington Coalition of Citizens.

Bradley Berg, Lori Nomura, Deborah Winter, Seattle, Amicus Curiae on Behalf of Association of Washington Public Association of Washington Housing.

Patrick Schneider, Ramona L. Monroe, Joshua Brower, Seattle, Amicus Curiae on Behalf of League of Women Voters of Washington.

Richard Stephens, Bellevue, James Johnson, Olympia, for Appellant Intervenor.

Christine Gregoire, Attorney General, Jeffrey Goltz, Assistant Attorney General, Olympia, for Appellant State of Washington.

Charles Ford, Portland, OR, Michael Subit, Clifford Freed, Craig Beles, C. Walter

Ebell, Seattle; Lane Powell Spears & Lubersky, James Robert, Gwendolyn Klein, Seattle; Mark Bubenik, Asst. City Attorney, Tacoma; Hugh Spitzer, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Ahearne, Seattle; Kyle Branum, Bellevue; Browne & Ressler, Allen Ressler, Seattle; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Cynthia Larsen, William Doyle, Margaret Toledo, Sacramento, CA; Preston, Gates & Ellis, Paul Lawrence, Carol Arnold, Robert Ferguson, Seattle; Law Offices of David S. Vogel, David Vogel, Seattle; Michael Gianunzio, Mukilteo; Laurie Halvorson, Seattle; John Hough, Olympia; Short, Cressman & Burgess, Scott Smith, Andrew Maron, Seattle, for Respondents.


The respondents in these consolidated cases raised numerous issues regarding the constitutionality and applicability of Initiative 695 (I-695). The King County Superior Court held the initiative unconstitutional under article II, section 1(b), article II, section 19, and article II, section 37, of the Washington State Constitution. The State of Washington (State) and Intervenor $30 License Tab Initiative Campaign (Campaign) appeal, contending that I-695 is constitutional. We affirm the trial court for the following reasons.

(1) Article II, section 19 has two requirements in its two clauses: An act must have only one subject, and the subject of the act must be contained in the act's title. The single subject rule of art. II, § 19 is intended to prevent legislators, whether the people or the Legislature, from having to vote for a law that they do not favor in order to obtain a law which they do. I-695 contains two subjects: (1) limiting license fees tabs to $30; and (2) requiring voter approval of all future state and local tax increases. These two subjects are contained in both the title and the body of I-695. I-695 is therefore unconstitutional in its entirety.

(2) The second clause of art. II, § 19 requires that the subject of a measure appear in the title. The purpose of this requirement is to notify those voting on the measure of its contents. I-695's voter approval provision, section 2, applies to taxes. I-695's express definition of this term establishes that tax does not mean tax as the term is commonly understood. Instead, tax as used in I-695 has a broader meaning, including fees and charges which are not traditionally considered to be taxes. The title therefore fails to provide notice that I-695's voter approval provision does not apply only to taxes as that term is commonly understood. Accordingly, section 2 of I-695 is unconstitutional under the second clause of art. II, § 19.

(3) Article II, section 1 concerns the legislative power in this state. Article II, section 1(a) and section 1(b) provide for the initiative and referendum powers, which are the people's legislative powers. The referendum power of the people has two forms. The people can petition for referendum of legislation that the Legislature has passed. To do so, four percent of the voters must sign a petition. Alternatively, the Legislature may refer a measure to the people. Section 2 of I-695 requires voter approval of all future tax legislation passed by the Legislature, but does not require a petition of the voters as to the specific piece of legislation, nor referral by the Legislature. Section 2 therefore establishes a referendum procedure not allowed under the state constitution and accordingly violates art. II, § 1(b).

(4) Article II, section 37 prohibits enactment of legislation that revises or amends other acts without setting them forth at full length. The purposes of this provision are to avoid confusion, ambiguity and uncertainty in the law that would occur if the law existed in separate and disconnected legislative provisions, and to disclose the new law's impact on existing laws. Section 2 of I-695 violates this constitutional provision because it amends a statute already providing for voter approval of a port district's industrial improvement assessment district without setting forth the existing act and showing how it is amended. Neither the existing statute nor the new enactment, I-695, discloses the full law respecting such voter approval.


In November 1999, the voters of Washington passed I-695 by a 56.16 percent vote. Laws of 2000, ch. 1 (effective Jan. 1, 2000). The ballot title of I-695 is Shall voter approval be required for any tax increase, license tab fees be $30 per year for motor vehicles, and existing vehicle taxes be repealed.1 State of Washington Voters Pamphlet, General Election (Nov. 2, 1999). Section 1 of I-695 sets motor vehicle license tab fees at $30. Laws of 2000, ch. 1, § 1(1). Section 2 provides that [a]ny tax increase imposed by the state shall require voter approval. Id. § 2(1). Tax is defined and includes, but is not necessarily limited to, sales and use taxes, property taxes, business and occupation taxes, excise taxes, fuel taxes, impact fees, license fees, permit fees, and any monetary charge by government. Id. § 2(2). Tax does not include [h]igher education tuition and [c]ivil and criminal fines and other charges collected in cases of restitution or violation of law or contract. Id. § 2(3). A `tax increase' includes, but is not necessarily limited to, a new tax, a monetary increase in an existing tax, a tax rate increase, an expansion in the legal definition of a tax base, and an extension of an expiring tax. Id. § 2(4). State is defined as including, but is not necessarily limited to, the state itself and all its departments and agencies, any city, county, special district, and other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state. Id. § 2(5). The voter approval provision does not apply to any specific emergency measure authorized by vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house of the legislature and expiring not later than twelve (12) months from the effective date of the emergency act. Id. § 2(6). The provisions of section 2 of I-695 are additional to and do not replace, the provisions of Initiative 601. Id. § 2(7).

Section 3 of I-695 repeals 44 statutes. Id. § 3. I-695 states these are statutes which impose taxes and fees on vehicles[,] id., but some of the repealed statutes allocate funds to specific programs such as public transportation. I-695 is to be liberally construed, id. § 4, and contains a severability provision, id. § 5.

Sections 1 and 3 of I-695 repealed the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET), which many perceived as an unfair tax. Initially the MVET was a tax on vehicles, in lieu of a property tax, of 1.5 percent of the fair market value of the vehicle. Laws of 1937, ch. 228. In 1999, the MVET was 2.2 percent, and the value of vehicles was not determined according to fair market value, but rather was tied to the manufacturer's base suggested retail price and the age of the vehicle. RCW 82.44.020; RCW 82.44.041(3)(b). MVET revenues were allocated to specific programs, such as public transportation, criminal justice, fire protection, and public health.

Prior to I-695, most vehicle owners also paid a $2 clean air excise tax. RCW 82.44.020(2) and RCW 82.44.110(2). Annual license fee statutes set license fees at under $30 for many vehicles. RCW 46.16.060(1). Most vehicle owners paid a $1 license plate fee, RCW 46.16.650, and a $.10 fee for highway studies, RCW 46.16.061. Owners of travel trailers and campers paid an excise tax of 1.1 percent. RCW 82.50.400; RCW 82.50.410. Owners of campers and travel trailers also paid a clean air tax of $2.25 under RCW 82.50.405. All of these statutes were repealed by I-695.

I-695 did not repeal county and certain municipality annual license fees of up to $15 for most motor vehicles registered in their jurisdiction. RCW 82.80.020(1). Municipalities may impose a special excise tax of up to.725 percent of the value of motor vehicles owned by municipal residents. RCW 35.58.273; RCW 82.44.150. The second of these statutes was repealed by I-695 among other things, it allocated revenues collected under RCW 35.58.273 but the other two were not. Certain cities and counties are authorized to impose an additional excise tax of up to .8 percent to provide for a high capacity transportation system. RCW 81.104.160(1). This statute was not repealed by I-695. Further, a $3 license filing fee, RCW 46.01.140(4)(a), and a $3 subagent fee, where applicable, RCW 46.01.140(5), were not repealed.

Thus, while repealing many statutes imposing...

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