Washington State Supreme Court ruling is putting public financing of Supreme Court races back on legislative agenda

For several years Washington state’s legislature has considered the possibility of public financing for judicial races but they have been stymied by a state law that required tax increases receive a 2/3rds majority of the House and Senate. That 2/3rds requirement was struck down in 2013 and now the effort for public financing has returned as HB 2525 of 2014.

First, some background.

Efforts at public financing for Washington Supreme Court elections started in the 2007/2008 session with HB 1186 and the similar HB 3336. HB 1186 made it out of committee in 2007, was carried over into the 2008 session, but died at the end of that year.

The 2009/2010 session is where the 2/3rds for a tax increase statute struck down by the Washington Supreme Court came into play. HB 1738 / SB 5912 of that session both advanced out of their various committees and were set to be voted on by their respective chambers. However the public financing system proposed in both bills was based on a $3 fee on court filings. On February 10, 2010 the state’s Lieutenant Governor ruled, as President of the Senate, the additional $3 charge for filing fees was a tax, not a fee, and therefore subject to the 2/3rds requirement. That ended SB 5912’s advancement and the House bill was effectively killed as well.

Another version of the bill was refiled for the 2011/2012 session (HB 1898 / SB 5010) but neither advanced out of committee. In 2013 the bills were not even resubmitted.

HB 2525 is set for a hearing before the House Government Operations & Elections Committee on January 31.

 

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