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Why Tim Eyman’s $30 car tab initiatives keep getting struck down in court

I-976 was struck down by the state Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Supreme Court of Washington State struck down Tim Eyman’s $30 car tab measure last week, a decision that University of Washington law professor Hugh Spitzer explained to KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

Washington leaders, lawmakers react to decision to strike down I-976

Some have levied criticism against the state Supreme Court for ruling against I-976, a measure that had been approved by voters in 2019. Despite that, though, the initiative violated Washington’s 131-year-old “single subject” rule.

“The state Constitution since 1889 has had this provision that says that each piece of legislation has to cover just one topic, and that’s to prevent what’s called log rolling, where legislators will pile in a whole bunch of different disparate topics in order to try to get a bill through,” Spitzer described.

For I-976, the initiative — which was presumably only supposed to be about lowering car tab fees — also contained a measure that would have required Sound Transit to retire their existing bonds and pay them off early.

Spitzer notes that this marks the third time the state Supreme Court has struck down an Eyman ballot initiative for violating the single subject rule. So, why keep drafting legislation that skirts the rules?

Spitzer once sat on a panel with Eyman, where he asked him that very question.

Lawsuit over ST3, car tabs gets new life despite high court defeat

“He said, ‘You know, I don’t really care — what I really want to do is to put pressure on the Legislature on the issues that I care about, and I really don’t care that much if they get thrown out,'” Spitzer said. “And so I think it’s maybe a political stance or tactical stance that he takes. But you should talk to him, because he seems to make the same mistakes repeatedly.”

In the wake of the I-976 decision, Eyman has said he remains “100% committed” to getting a $30 car tabs initiative passed. Whether his next attempt will finally pass muster with the state Supreme Court remains to be seen.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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