Initiative 6 presses forward in the courts to defend constitutional government - 
GMA-related local ordinance repeal stopped before going to voters

By Sue Forde, Citizen Review Online

Clallam County, WA – April 27, 2002 – Two State Representatives, a Senator, a County, and two statewide organizations have joined the battle for the right to vote on an initiative. 

The Washington State Appeals Court has accepted an amicus brief on behalf of the Initiative 6 legal battle.  State Representatives Jim Buck (R-24th District) and Joyce Mulliken, (R-13th District), and State Senator Tim Sheldon (D – 35th District), along with The Washington State Farm Bureau, The Evergreen Freedom Foundation and Ferry County have signed onto the brief to argue in favor of the initiative process.

The brief offers arguments about protecting the constitutional right of citizens to control both State and local legislative policy, and discusses the “GMA Revolution” and political control.  It offers the reasoning based on our republican form of government, and how that form of government has “drifted” because of various previous court rulings.  The 25-page brief was accepted by the court of appeals for review.

Although the hearing was scheduled soon, Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Melly has requested that the date be extended. 

Initiative 6 – which originated in Clallam County – was stopped short from being placed on the ballot last November when county commissioner Steve Tharinger (D) recommended it be referred to the courts instead.  The initiative called for the repeal of the county Critical Areas Code, and was signed by over 3,800 citizens, validated, and approved for the ballot in accordance with the county Home Rule Charter. The Critical Areas Code.  Tharinger ignored the county law which stated that before an initiative could be sent to the court, it had to be on the ballot.  It never made it that far.

At issue is whether the voters of Clallam County - or any county - can exercise their initiative rights on any matter concerning the Growth Management Act (GMA).  Two previous cases were heard by the Supreme Court, both regarding referendums covering the same topic, and the voters lost out. 

Last year, the county sued Bob Forde, a private citizen who turned the initiative signatures into the county.  Forde, defending himself, was joined by the BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington)’s attorney Tim Ford, while two environmental organizations – Protect the Peninsula’s Future and 1000 Friends of Washington - joined the side of the county in the suit.  After three county judges recused themselves, the case was finally heard at the local level by a family court judge, who sided with the county.

Forde and Ford turned to the State Supreme Court, asking to be heard based on the constitutionality aspect of it.  The Court, after review, referred the case back to the Appellate Court, is waiting to be heard.

The brief brings forward that the issue goes to the heart of the State’s form of governance – government must be “republican” in nature in order to preserve voter control, the brief states.  The non-elected three-member Growth Hearings Board is a tribunal that strips legislative policy-making power from elected county and city legislators.  The Board (1) reviews local legislation pursuant to its own interpretation of vague Growth Management Act (“GMA”) planning goals; (2) it rules local legislation fails to comply with the Board’s own interpretation of these vague State goals; (3) it “invalidates” local legislation; (4) it mandates that local law makers adopt replacement laws that comport with Board’s dictates or face the threat of budget sanctions.

It goes on to state that the Critical Areas Code covered under Initiative 6 is but one of the numerous GMA provisions that assault those basic constitutionally mandated “republican” principles.  The sole remaining vehicle for voters to assert local control over their own policy is by direct legislation through citizen initiative and referendum.  The Clallam County court denied that to the voters.  They ask the appeals court to reinstate it.

For previous stories on this issue, click here.

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