Supermajority on taxes kept out of House rules

Republicans tried to enact a backup to Initiative 1185

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OLYMPIA -- Republicans unsuccessfully tried Friday to amend the state House rules to require a two-thirds majority vote on tax increases.

The amendment they proposed Friday would have made sure that, no matter what happens to voter-approved Initiative 1185, two-thirds of House members would need to agree before raising taxes. Republicans said they feared the two-thirds rule approved by voters last fall could be overturned by the courts.

While speaking in support of the House amendment, Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, said I-1185 passed in her district with nearly 72 percent of the vote.

"Why do we even have an initiative process if we continually ignore the will of the people?" she asked.

The amendment failed 41-52, with Clark County's representatives voting along party lines. Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, was absent from voting because she had the flu, her legislative assistant said Friday.

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, explained his opposition: "A simple majority is constitutional."

Other opponents of the rule said it compromises the core democratic concept of majority rule.

"This amendment," said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, "would eliminate representative democracy's ability to function with majority rule."

I-1185 may fall in court

Republican leaders fear that the state Supreme Court shares Carlyle's opinion. The court has ruled that previous two-thirds majority initiatives were unconstitutional.

Initiative 1185 "is going to get kicked out by the courts and we are going to see tax increases," predicted House Minority Leader Richard De Bolt, R-Chehalis.

Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said seeking a constitutional amendment to set the two-thirds rule in stone would be a good next step.

"I think the will of the people was that they definitely wanted a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes," Harris said.

The House considered three other rule amendments. The only amendment that passed allows constituents to speak at public hearings before registered lobbyists have their turn. That amendment passed unanimously, excluding the five absent members.

Proposals to create a separate budget for education and to ensure each legislator receives at least one bill hearing failed.