WA: Coalition asks court to throw out Referendum 53


Bremerton Sun

11/15/02

OLYMPIA, WA(AP) Gov. Gary Locke and a coalition of business and labor groups are asking the Supreme Court to throw out the election results for Referendum 53.
Voters rejected the referendum earlier this month. Had the measure passed, it would have kept intact changes made by the Legislature earlier this year to the system of unemployment taxes paid by Washington businesses.


Locke, Boeing, restaurants, retailers, and most of the political and business establishment in Washington wanted the referendum to pass.

The construction industry which would have had to pay more in taxes under the new system wanted it to fail.

Voters, faced with a confusing ballot measure about an obscure taxation system, voted no.

Now, Locke and the business coalition want the Supreme Court to throw out the election results, which would have the same effect as passage of R-53, keeping the new system in place.

In July, Locke and 18 business and labor groups sued to keep R-53 off the ballot by arguing it was unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court heard the case in September, but decided it didn't have enough time to rule on the measure's constitutionality before the election.

Now the plaintiffs are returning to court with the same basic argument: "Referendum 53 does not meet the constitutional test for a referendum," said Barbara Smith, a Seattle publicist representing the business and labor coalition.

Locke and the coalition have said they believe R-53 goes beyond the constitutional limits on referendums by threatening support of state government and public institutions.

Leaders of the Building Industry Association of Washington, happy with the rejection of R-53, criticized the lawsuit.

"The bottom line is Boeing and Locke are sore losers," Building Industry Association President Dottie Piazza said. "They simply don't like how voters voted."

The case has not yet been scheduled for a court hearing.

Published in The Sun: 11/15/2002

 

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