CRITICAL UPDATE: $30 Tabs, attacks on 1A & 2A rights in B’ham & Edmonds, Inslee’s lockdown
1. Bellingham infringes on 1A & 2A rights.
Pro-2A Patriots — over 700 of them — emailed the mayor and council. 17 citizens attended in person.
At Monday’s meeting, Bellingham’s politicians banned public testimony, passed their emergency ordinances, and refused to remove their offensive anti-2A provisions (subsections 5, 7, 9 of the Bellingham Municipal Code).
But they did pass a motion instructing their city attorney to determine the provisions’ constitutionality.
Fortunately, public records are still public. Council President Gene Knutson sent an email to a constituent:
“Micheal’s motion was to have the legal dept bring back the old language at a future meeting to be looked at and i can tell you it will be changed. It is in our municipal code and we have to have a public hearing on that. We had police because of Ass Hole Tim Eyman who was there disrupting our meeting even before it started. You could not see that because it was at 6:45.”
Fortunately, there was a Bellingham resident who was there to record the portion Knutson says “you could not see” — this is how politicians treat citizens who ask questions when they think there’s no cameras:
Emails can be ignored. But legitimate questions asked in public — with patriotic citizens recording them — are much more difficult to avoid.
It’s why we have the Open Public Meetings Act.
Well, uh, at least we used to. Because the next day …
2. Edmonds’ politicians shatter 1A & 2A rights. SWAT team called in.
I wrote about it on Facebook as the meeting started:
Then things got weird. They called in police wearing SWAT gear.
Police told us that Jay Inslee’s Proclamation made the Open Public Meetings Act illegal.
At the point of a gun, we were ordered out of the building.
The Council did not remove Section G and ratified the emergency ordinance as written.
My team put together an incredibly video that documents this:
3. VICTORY: Judge signs Final Order 3 days early, I-976 takes effect Friday
The media has iron-clad rule: only report on bad news for Tim Eyman, never good news.
But one newspaper — a real heretic — has crossed the picket-line on this:
By Roger Harnack, Cheney Free Press, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
SEATTLE — The King County judge who initially blocked the $30 car-tab cap denied most of the challenges to the taxpayer-approved measure.
Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson ruled this morning, Tuesday, March 24, that the measure meets constitutional muster and can go into effect.
But he severed parts of the measure that related to how vehicle valuations are calculated in the Puget Sound region. Those valuations provide the basis for Sound Transit to collect taxes to expand its operations.
“Plaintiffs remaining challenges to Initiative 976 are denied,” Judge Ferguson wrote in his order.
Initiative guru Tim Eyman, who led the effort to halt municipal governments’ continued additions of fees and taxes on license plate tabs, said he is elated by the decision.
The initiative was originally supposed to take effect Dec. 5.
Anyone who paid taxes and fees above the $30 cap since then should receive a refund, Eyman said, noting municipal governments will need an estimated combined 200,000 man-hours to process nearly four months of refunds.
Those who haven’t paid for vehicle tabs yet could see the $30 limit by the end of the week.
“On Friday, we get our $30 tabs,” Eyman said, noting Seattle, King County and other government agencies suing the electorate to block the measure may have one last stand.
Eyman said he expects King County and the city of Seattle to try to appeal directly to the state Supreme Court before Friday, when the $30 car tab cap is expected to go into effect.
“We just have to hold our breath for three more days,” he said. “They would have to prove the judge made an arbitrary and capricious ruling.”
In his order, Judge Marshall dismissed claims the measure violated the single-subject rule, separation of powers and the state Constitution. He also dismissed a challenge relating to the ballot title written by the Attorney General.
Eyman credited Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier and attorney Stephen Pidgeon for the victory.
“I think he (Pidgeon) saved the whole thing,” Eyman said. “And Clint didn’t take no for an answer.”
Didier led the charge to get municipal governments to pick up the mantle on behalf of taxpayers, starting with the Franklin County Commission.
But Commissioners Robert “Bob” Kock and Brad Peck refused to support Didier’s efforts. During a public meeting, Peck went so far as to claim intervening was “illegal.”
Following Didier’s lead, however, the Pierce County Council decided to seek intervenor status.
Didier, supported by a few Franklin County residents, put together enough money to hire Pidgeon and intervene on behalf of voters.
Didier couldn’t be reached for comment tonight.
An email obtained by Free Press Publishing this evening shows the thought process behind Judge Ferguson’s decision.
Referring to Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to shutdown business in the state due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Judge Ferguson said:
“Almost overnight, thousands of Washington residents have lost jobs due to the public health crisis. Ongoing, sizable job losses are predicted for the near future. Washington residents continue to receive invoices from the state requiring them to pay motor vehicle license fees and taxes, some of which might not be collectible were I-976 to be implemented.”
Ferguson said those fees and taxes “might be substantial” and in the “hundreds of dollars.”
“For some Washington residents who have just lost their jobs, who now face grave financial peril, receiving a car tab invoice that they can no longer afford could plunge them into dire straits or force them into harsh dilemmas,” he wrote.
This is fantastic news. Judge Ferguson signed the Final Judgement Order and he also signed the Order Certifying Case that all the parties agreed to.
So I-976 takes effect on Friday.
The only reason this was delayed was because Seattle’s lawyers convinced this judge they had a strong likelihood of success (and because of AG Bob Ferguson’s sabotage). So in late November, he granted the preliminary injunction. But fortunately for the taxpayers, attorney Stephen Pidgeon, through his brilliant briefing and persuasive oral argument, overcame the AG’s sabotage and convinced Judge Ferguson that I-976 was constitutional (that it was single subject, that the information in the ballot title and voters pamphlet provided voters with plenty of notice, etc).
Late last week, all the parties presented Judge Ferguson with an agreed-upon Order. Judge Ferguson signed it.
Again, that means I-976 takes effect on Friday. Seattle will not doubt run to the supreme court and ask them to overturn Ferguson’s Final Judgement Order. But it’s important to remember, they agreed to it. And the only reason the injunction was originally granted was because there was a belief that there was a substantial likelihood of success. Now that Judge Ferguson has concluded the initiative is clearly constitutional, it’ll be quite difficult for the supreme court to disagree with his decision. They need to find his ruling was “arbitrary and capricious.” And they’ll need to come to that conclusion without briefs, without a hearing, and without oral argument.
Why did Seattle throw in the towel and sign the agreed-upon Order?
Because on March 12, Judge Ferguson wrote to all the parties and signaled very clearly that he was going to allow I-976 to take effect. He wrote in part:
Almost overnight, thousands of Washington residents have lost jobs due to the public health crisis. Ongoing, sizeable job losses are predicted for the near future. Washington residents continue to receive invoices from the State requiring them to pay motor vehicle license fees and taxes, some of which might not be collectible were I-976 to be implemented. The difference between what is currently owed versus what one would owe if I-976 were to be implemented might be substantial in some instances, perhaps in the hundreds of dollars. For some Washington residents who have just lost their jobs, who now face grave financial peril, receiving a car tab invoice that they can no longer afford could plunge them into dire straits or force them into harsh dilemmas. Other individuals might be entitled to significant refunds for car tab invoices previously paid …”
But to be clear: we can’t declare victory yet, but it’s looking good that anxious citizens will get some needed tax relief very soon. The people overwhelmingly passed Initiative 976 – they deserve to have their votes counted.