The news and notes from around town and beyond
The following is a press release from David Ammons, communications director for the Office of the Secretary of State.
Jay Inslee has announced he will resign from his U.S. House seat, effective March 20, and will devote full time to his bid for Washington governor. State Elections Co-Director Katie Blinn said that under the state law dealing with congressional vacancies, there will be no special election, since Inlee’s departure comes after the March 6 deadline for that to occur.
The 1st District seat will be vacant until the winner of the regularly scheduled election is certified on Dec. 6. Filing Week will begin on May 14; a number of candidates already have lined up to run and will face off in a Top 2 Primary with a postmark or ballot dropoff deadline of Aug. 7. The General Election has a postmark or ballot dropoff deadline of Nov. 6. The returns are certified one month later.
State law for U.S. Senate vacancies is different. For a Senate vacancies, the governor has authority to appoint someone to serve until the election is certified.
If Inslee’s departure had been March 6 or earlier, the governor would have had 10 days to pick an election date for a special 1st District primary within the next 70 days, and to fix a special general election within 70 days after the primary. A later vacancy is filled by the regularly scheduled elections.
The following is a post from Dave Ammons, communications director for Sam Reed, secretary of state.
Washington’s political parties are back in federal appeals court, continuing their six-year challenge of the state’s popular voter-approved Top 2 Primary.
The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties of Washington asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to throw out the system, which allows voters to choose their favorite for each office, without respect to party, with the two favorites advancing to the November General Election ballot. Neither party is guaranteed a November runoff slot, and the Top 2 is not a nominating election, but rather a winnowing contest.
Jeff Even, deputy state solicitor general, representing Secretary of State Sam Reed and the voters, said the oral argument went well, and that he is optimistic that the state will be able to keep the Top 2 system in place. California voters recently adopted the system. The three-judge panel gave no indication when they will rule, but Even said he would expect the state to know by next spring that it can run the big 2012 election system with the Top 2 in place.
The system was approved in a landslide public vote in 2004 after the parties had successfully challenged the state’s longstanding “blanket” primary, which allowed crossover voting, but produced a GOP nominee and a Democratic nominee, with minor parties handled in a separate process.
The system easily survived a constitutional challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court, which handed down a 7-2 ruling back in March of 2008. The state has used the system ever since, with polls showing heavy public support. But the parties continue to argue that the Top 2 system causes voter confusion and thereby violates the parties’ freedom of association.
In January, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour (pronounced Coo’-now-er) dismissed challenges brought by the parties over the way Washington operates the primary. Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna called it a major victory for the voters of Washington and expressed hope that the case was resolved at long last. But the parties decided to appeal.
The court did, however, side with the parties on one issue, saying it is unconstitutional for the state to conduct precinct committee officer elections for the parties when the races are on a ballot available to all voters across the political spectrum. The ruling apparently means the state is out of the PCO election business unless the Legislature devises some fallback system.
The judge said the state Elections Division has carefully adopted the recommendations of the high court, making it clear that candidates “prefer” a particular party of their designation, but that the party may or may not endorse the candidate. Coughenour dismissed the parties’ contention that voters are confused by the party references.
He said the system “does not create the possibility of widespread confusion among the reasonable, well-informed electorate.”
Even and Grange attorney Tom Ahearn asked the appeals judges to agree with the district judge that Washington has carefully implemented the Top 2 system using the roadmap suggested by the U.S. Supreme Court. Voters are not confused by the system and the high court already has said the parties do not have a right to demand that their favored candidates be identified, Even said.
The judges gave no indication that the Top 2 system itself is in any jeopardy, Even said.
“This is about as good as we could have hoped,” said Katie Blinn, co-state elections director.
Secretary Reed was pleased at how the hearing went, and optimistic of victory:
“The people created this Top 2 Primary system by an overwhelming statewide vote in 2004 as Initiative 872 and it keeps voters in the driver’s seat in choosing their finalists for office in this state. It honors our wonderful political heritage of allowing us to vote for our favorite candidate for each office without regard to party preference.
“This new primary system has been a real passion of mine for the past decade, and it has proven very, very popular in the past four elections. California voters recently adopted our system and I would predict it catches on more broadly in this country.” The Top 2 system says every single voter is important in winnowing the field of candidates. Judge Coughenour’s wise ruling told us that the primary belongs to the voters and not solely the parties.”
“On behalf of the 3.6 million voters of Washington, I thank our elections community, including our state Elections Division and our County Auditors, for their clear and excellent implementation of this new system. And I thank Attorney General McKenna and his legal team for their excellent and diligent defense of Top 2.”
The following is a press release from the Attorney General’s office
The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear the multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law.
“Today our nation’s highest court acknowledged that this case poses serious questions about the limits of federal power,” state Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “Access to affordable, quality health care can be expanded without cutting constitutional corners. Health care reform is far too important to rest on an unconstitutional foundation.”
In September, the petition by the 26 states, along with a parallel petition from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and two individual plaintiffs, asked the nation’s highest court to consider whether the health care law’s mandate that every American buy government-approved health care or face a fine exceeds Congress’ powers under the Constitution, and whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law.
McKenna noted that in the early days of the lawsuit, some widely quoted legal experts suggested the case had “no merit” or was nearly frivolous. The moderator of a 2010 U.W. panel about the case even claimed to be unable to find a law professor to argue on behalf of the lawsuit. Both the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta later ruled that the law’s mandate is unconstitutional. Even among judges who ruled in favor of the health care law, none dismissed the lawsuit as meritless. Now the nation’s highest Court says the case requires its consideration.
Jeff Switzer from the state Department of Transportion sent this slide show of the Alaska Way Viaduct demolition.
• Northbound SR 99 between the West Seattle Bridge and South Royal Brougham Way will be closed around-the-clock beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 31.
• Northbound SR 99 between the South Royal Brougham Way on-ramp and the Battery Street Tunnel will open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and for special events at CenturyLink Field.
• Southbound SR 99 between the Battery Street Tunnel and West Seattle Bridge will be closed around-the-clock beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 31.
A United States District Court judge ruled today that there is no reason to shield from public view petitions from a 2009 ballot measure on domestic partnerships.
Judge Benjamin H. Settle ruled that plaintiffs seeking to prevent Secretary of State Sam Reed from disclosing Referendum 71 petitions under Washington’s Public Records Act have not demonstrated that signers of R-71 face a reasonable probability that disclosure will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from government officials or private parties. In fact, Settle wrote, “[T]he Court finds that Doe has only supplied evidence that hurts rather than helps its case.”
Judge Settle refers to the witnesses provided by the plaintiffs in Doe v. Reed, who all reported that police efforts to address their alleged harassment were either “sufficient or unnecessary.” Plaintiffs have had two years to substantiate their claims that signers of R-71 would face serious harassment if petitions are disclosed. The judge also pointed out that the names of 857 R-71 campaign contributors have been public for years, and no serious harassment has been reported.
“The people of our state have long asserted their right to access government records, including ballot measure petitions,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “Barring the threat of serious harm or harassment to persons identified in such records, the state should always err on the side of transparency and accountability. We’re pleased that the court agrees.”
McKenna added that intimidating or harassing anyone participating in the political process is unacceptable, and urges members of the public to contact the police if they are being threatened. In the case of R-71, however, such harassment was not demonstrated to the court.
On July 28, 2009, plaintiffs (collectively “Doe”) filed the action to enjoin the disclosure of R-71 petitions. They argued that disclosure of any referendum or initiative petitions is unconstitutional as a general matter. Second, they claimed that disclosure of R-71 petitions would be unconstitutional as specifically applied to R-71 initiative signers. On September 10, 2009, the court granted preliminary injunctive relief on the first count but declined to rule on the second. The first count was litigated all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with Attorney General McKenna personally arguing on behalf of disclosure. The Court agreed with McKenna that petitions should be disclosed but left open the possibility of relief under the second count (Doe’s “as-applied” challenge to disclosure of the R-71 petitions).
On June 29, 2011, the parties filed motions for summary judgment regarding Doe’s as-applied challenge. The plaintiffs were unable to provide witnesses who demonstrated a serious threat of harassment, even though the majority of R-71 signatures were gathered in public places, such as grocery stores and shopping malls.
State Supreme Court rules on health care and land appeal cases involving Attorney General Rob McKennaSeptember 1st, 2011 at 2:50 pm by dennisbox
A couple of interesting state Supreme Court decisions today prompted a telephone press conference by Attorney General Rob McKenna.
In one decision the court upheld the authority of the attorney general to pursue an appeal of the federal health care law. The city of Seattle had filed a lawsuit requesting McKenna withdraw Washington from the multi-state lawsuit that is challenging the federal health care law requiring individuals to purchase government-approved health insurance in the private marketplace.
In the second decision the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that McKenna must file an appeal as requested by the state Commissioner of Public Lands.
The attorney general had looked at the case and decided it was not in the legal interest of the state to pursue an appeal. The court ruled the commissioner had the legal authority to direct the attorney general to file the appeal.
During the press conference McKenna noted the dispute between the commissioner’s office and the attorney general’s office was unusual.
“Disagreement of this type are very rare,” McKenna said. “It is very rare for a client to ignore the advice of several lawyers.”
McKenna noted the court ruled the land commissioner had the statutory authority to direct legal action, while other officials do not have this authority.
“It is a concern to us,” McKenna said.
In the health care case McKenna noted the appeal was seeking to remove the mandatory requirement that individuals must purchase government approved health care, and was not seeking to overturn the federal health care act.
Here is a link to the cases — http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.recent
Attached are press releases from McKenna’s office and the land commissioner’ office regarding the cases.
Release from Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.
Supreme Court requires Attorney General to represent Commissioner of Public Lands
OLYMPIA – Statement from the Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark in response to the favorable ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court in the writ of mandamus against Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna:
“In today’s historic decision the Supreme Court ruled that Rob McKenna’s ‘duty is mandatory, and the attorney general has no discretion to deny the commissioner legal representation.’ I applaud the Supreme Court for striking down what would be a dangerous precedent by the attorney general to dictate policy for another statewide elected official.
“As Commissioner of Public Lands, I have an obligation to manage the state’s trust lands sustainably for future generations, and I will continue to fight for what I know is right. Thankfully, the Supreme Court has agreed with me. It is essential that the Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands has the ability to carry out its responsibility to the trusts, and not having counsel leaves the Common School Trust defenseless. The schools supported by the trust and the citizens of Washington are the big winners today.”
Common School Trust
DNR manages more than 3 million acres of public trusts lands, the largest of which is the Common School Trust. Since 1967, revenues derived on lands within the Common School Trust have provided about $3 billion in non-tax revenue for the capital construction of public school facilities. These non-tax revenues are generated by the private sector on trust lands through agriculture, grazing, and timber harvest.
Release from Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Supreme Court requires AG to file Commissioner’s appeal, citing specific statute
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Supreme Court today ruled 7-2 that Attorney General Rob McKenna must file an appeal as requested by the state Commissioner of Public Lands, despite the fact that an Okanogan Superior Court considered and ruled against the Commissioner’s position and despite the Office of the Attorney General’s judgment that the appeal was not in the legal interest of the state of Washington. In its ruling, the court pointed to a specific statute pertaining directly to the Commissioner’s authority to direct legal action.
“It’s important to note that disagreements between the Attorney General’s Office and its clients over legal strategy are exceedingly rare and that the court today relied on a specific statute governing the Commissioner’s authority to direct legal action,” McKenna said. “We continue to study this decision and are concerned about the apparent inconsistencies between prior Supreme Court precedent and today’s ruling in City of Seattle, rulings which recognize the Attorney General has broad discretion to direct legal action in the best interest of the state as a whole.
Deputy Solicitor General Alan Copsey argued the case on behalf of Attorney General McKenna.
In the underlying case, the Attorney General’s Office represented the Commissioner in a lawsuit filed by the Public Utility District No. 1 of Okanogan County seeking to condemn an easement to install and maintain a power line through public and private lands in the Methow Valley. The Public Utility District won the case and the Commissioner of Public Lands asked the Attorney General’s Office to appeal the decision on his behalf. After careful consideration, the Attorney General’s Office declined the request to appeal.
The decision not to appeal the Okanogan County Superior Court ruling was based, as all of the Attorney General’s Office’s appellate decisions are, on whether legal error was made by the trial court judge, consideration of the trial court record, and the potential effect of an appeal on the legal interests of the state as a whole. This process for handling appeals has been in place for many years.
With today’s decision, the Commissioner’s appeal of the superior court decision may now proceed.
Release from Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Supreme Court upholds AG’s authority to pursue health care challenge
OLYMPIA – In a 9-0 ruling, the Washington State Supreme Court denied the City of Seattle’s request to require Attorney General Rob McKenna to withdraw Washington from the multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law passed in March 2010 and upheld the Attorney General’s authority to defend the public interest.
“I’m pleased the court affirmed the authority and responsibility of the Attorney General to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws that threaten the constitutional rights of this state and its people,” McKenna said. “It’s important that the state’s constitutionally-established, independently-elected Attorney General – whomever it may be — have the authority to protect the legal rights of the state and its people in the years to come.”
The city argued the Attorney General overstepped his authority when he joined more than a dozen state attorneys general in filing the suit in late March 2010.
The state argued the courts have consistently recognized that the Attorney General’s constitutional and statutory role requires him or her to exercise independent legal judgment that takes into account the legal interests of the state of Washington as a whole when determining how to best protect its legal rights.
The court ruled 9-0 that state law grants the Attorney General discretionary authority to act in any court on “a matter of public concern,” that the federal health care reform act was of “public concern” and therefore denied the City of Seattle’s request to force the Attorney General to withdraw the state from the multistate lawsuit. The suit now includes 26 states, the National Federal of Independent Business and several individuals.
Solicitor General Maureen Hart argued the case on behalf of the state.
On August 12, 2011, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the federal government may not force individuals to purchase government-approved health insurance in the private marketplace, stating Congress may not “mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.”
In April, job vacancies in Washington state reached their highest point in three years, according to a new report by the Employment Security Department.
An estimated 60,087 vacant jobs were available, an increase of 55 percent from a year earlier and nearly double the number that existed in spring 2009. The last time the survey showed a larger number of vacancies was in spring 2008, when there were nearly 75,000 job vacancies.
“In order for unemployment to come down, we need more jobs and more hiring,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. “This survey shows that employment conditions are gradually improving.”
Job vacancies hit an all-time high in fall 2006, with nearly 91,000 open positions. That number dropped rapidly the ensuing three years, hitting a low point of 32,037 vacancies in fall 2009.
The number of unemployed job seekers declined from a peak of about 337,000 in spring 2010 to around 312,000 at the same point in 2011. At the same time, the total labor force (which includes employed workers and unemployed workers who are actively looking for jobs) also declined, by an estimated 51,926 (seasonally adjusted).
Highlights from Employment Security’s Spring 2011 Job-Vacancy Survey
• About half of the job vacancies were at companies with fewer than 50 employees, while about one-fourth were at companies with more than 250 employees.
• Of the 60,087 job vacancies reported, 14.7 percent (8,834) were newly created positions, mostly at companies with fewer than 20 employees.
• Over the year, vacancies grew in all major industry groups except the information and utilities industries. The healthcare and social assistance industry (10,131), the retail-trade industry (9,502) and the accommodation and food services industry (7,728) had the most vacancies.
• Among occupations, the greatest growth was in food preparation and serving; computer and mathematical positions; healthcare; and office and administrative support.
• Geographically, 62 percent of all job vacancies were in the central Puget Sound region of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
• 55 percent of open jobs required a high school diploma or had no educational requirement. The percentage of vacancies requiring advanced education tends to drop in the spring, as seasonal employment increases.
2011 Spring Job-Vacancy Report, http://www.workforceexplorer.com/admin/uploadedPublications/11344_JVSAug_11Rept.pdf
Job-Vacancy Survey Appendices, Spring 2011, http://www.workforceexplorer.com/admin/uploadedPublications/11343_Appendices_JVSApr_11Wex.xls
Job-Vacancy Survey by local areas, Spring 2011, http://www.workforceexplorer.com/admin/uploadedPublications/11345_JVS_WDA_Report_Apr_11.xls
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta today issued a 2-1 opinion, ruling the federal government may not force individuals to purchase government-approved health insurance in the private marketplace.
The ruling upholds a decision by Florida Judge Roger Vinson earlier this year declaring the provision of the federal Affordable Care Act, requiring all Americans to have or purchase a government-approved health insurance policy in the private market, unconstitutional.
In its 304-page decision, the majority differed with Vinson on the issue of whether the entire act should be nullified, ruling instead that the so-called “individual mandate” could be struck down without declaring the entire act unconstitutional.
The following is a press release from David Ammons, communications director fro the Office of Secretary of State.
The Costco-sponsored liquor privatization measure, Initiative 1183, has qualified for the statewide General Election ballot, Secretary of State Sam Reed announced late Wednesday. The state Elections Division completed a random-sample check of voter signatures, showing easily enough signatures, and on Thursday, Reed will certify the measure to the ballot.
The sponsors submitted 361,339, far more than the 241,153 bare minimum of valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The large number allowed for a random sample of 3 percent. Of the 11,035 sampled, 9,714 were accepted. The other 1,321 signatures were rejected for a variety of reasons: 20 had a missing signature awaiting verification, 103 did not match the signature on file, 1,191 were not found on the voter rolls, and seven were duplicates. The error rate was 13.98 percent., lower than the average rate of 18 percent in recent decades.
The signatures were collected in record time, less than three weeks, and were the most submitted for a 2011 initiative.
This is the second measure to qualify. Tim Eyman’s measure dealing with transportation tolling, I-1125, was certified on Monday.
The signature check on a third measure, I-1163 dealing with home careworkers, sponsored by the SEIU, will begin on Thursday, and likely will be completed by early next week.
Two constitutional amendments also were placed on the ballot by the Legislature. SJR8205 deals with the residency requirement to vote for president and SJR8206 would mandate that a portion of extraordinarily state revenue growth be added to the “rainy day” savings account.
Here is the information on I-1183 that is posted on our initiative webpage:
Mr. Bruce Beckett
Mr. John McKay
Public Contact Information:
6525 18th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Initiative Measure No. 1183 concerns liquor: beer, wine, and spirits (hard liquor).
This measure would close state liquor stores and sell their assets; license private parties to sell and distribute spirits; set license fees based on sales; regulate licensees; and change regulation of wine distribution.
Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]
Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would close state liquor stores and sell their assets including the liquor distribution center. The state would license private parties to distribute spirits and to sell spirits in retail stores meeting certain criteria, subject to specified training and compliance requirements. The measure establishes licensing fees for sale and distribution of spirits based on the licensee’s sales revenues. It would change some wine distribution laws and allow non-uniform wholesale pricing for wine and spirits.
The 60-page text:
Secretary of State Sam Reed has decided to retire at the end of his third term, in January, 2013, but plans to stay involved in public life through volunteerism and service projects.
Reed, a moderate Republican and the state’s senior GOP statewide elected official, was easily re-elected in 2008 despite the heavy Democratic vote in Washington State. He said he’s confident he could have won a new term, but is ready to move into an active retirement and turn the office over to a new generation.
A cancer survivor, Reed said he was recently given a clean bill of health and is energetic and plans a “vigorous and robust” finale to his term. He is 70.
“This is a bittersweet decision for me and my family. I have such love and respect for this office and for the opportunities to serve the people of Washington every single day. I came to Olympia as a young man to answer a call for a new breed of leaders, and was honored to work for Gov. Dan Evans and to be appointed assistant secretary of state by Secretary Lud Kramer at age 28. Later, I thoroughly enjoyed being Thurston County Auditor for 23 years and now have had the distinct pleasure of being Secretary of State for three terms, including presiding over the nation’s secretaries of state.
“In all, it has been quite a ride – 45 years in public life, including 35 in elective office.
“It is true, there is `a time and a season’ and for Margie and me, it is time to move on at the end of the term.
“I am leaving elective office, but not public service. I am quite certain that I will continue my love of community and state and country and serve as an enthusiastic volunteer in non-profits and charities, lecturing, writing and spending time on college campuses.
“I will continue to advocate for political moderation, both in my own party and wherever we Washingtonians can find opportunities to solve our challenges through bipartisanship and nonpartisanship. I will continue working for civility, human rights and conservation and other causes I strongly believe in. I will continue to champion civic engagement by all of us, working to build stronger communities that are inclusive of all. Margie and I will enjoy travel, the arts, sports and spending time with our family, including our two grandsons.”
Reed, the 14th secretary of state and the senior Republican statewide elected official, served as assistant secretary of state under A. Ludlow Kramer and Bruce Chapman, from 1969 to 1975. He was appointed by Gov. Dan Evans to head the Urban Affairs Council (1967-1969) and the Constitutional Reform Commission (1975-1977) and worked on the drive to lower the state voting age from 21. He was active in electing moderate Republicans to statewide and local office.
He was elected six times as Thurston County Auditor, serving from 1978 to 2000, when he was elected to the first of three four-year terms as secretary of state. His last re-election was in 2008, winning with over 58 percent of the vote, more than Barack Obama’s percentage in the Democratic-leaning state.
Secretary Reed served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2005 and has chaired NASS committees, including the Heritage panel and a presidential primary reform committee. He has been an election observer in Uganda and the Russian Far East, and an advisor to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. He is a trustee of the Washington State Historical Society and the Heritage Center Trust Board, TVW Board of Directors, YMCA Youth and Government Board, and the State Capitol Committee.
Reed’s family has been in the region since territorial days. His grandfather, Sam Sumner, was Chelan County Prosecuting Attorney, a member of the state House and Republican State Chairman. His parents were heavily active in civic affairs and politics. Reed grew up in Wenatchee. His family later moved to Spokane, where he graduated from Lewis and Clark High School. He attended Washington State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies and a Master’s Degree in Political Science. He attends Cougar athletic events and has the WSU fight song as the ring tone for his cell phone.
Reed has received many honors, including Governing Magazine’s national Public Official of the Year Award, the Warren G. Magnuson Award of the Municipal League of King County, honors from the Washington State Coalition of the Homeless, lifetime honors from the Thurston County Women Republicans, and Gonzaga University’s School of Law Medal for exceptional service to the law and the legal system, following his handling of the contested 2004 governor’s race.
Sam and his wife, Margie, have lived in Olympia for many years. They have two adult children, David and Kristen, and two grandsons.