By TED O’NEIL
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — – Washington state lawmakers for the second time in three years have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jay Inslee for what they say is his improper use of his veto powers.
At issue is his veto of a part of House Bill 1091 that would have postponed a portion of the law from going into effect until the Legislature had a new statewide transportation funding package in place.
Sponsors say the bill is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the carbon intensity in gasoline.
Although the law passed by slim margins in both chambers, both the Democratic and Republican caucuses say they are united behind the effort, according to media reports.
“This veto is an overstep of executive power,” Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, Gov. Inslee’s fellow Democrat, said in a press release on his website in May when it occurred. “The governor has attempted to create a power for his office that simply does not exist. The constitution is clear that the governor is only permitted to veto a full section of a bill. In this case he has vetoed a subsection.”
In a statement to KCPQ-FOX13 in Seattle, Inslee’s office said it was disappointed in the Legislature’s decision to sue again and “we remain confident that the governor acted within his legal authority.”
The Washington State Supreme Court last month voted 7-2 in agreeing with legislators that Inslee was in the wrong when he vetoed a single sentence, repeated in different sections of a 2019 transportation budget bill.
In that instance, Gov. Inslee struck a sentence that would have banned state transportation officials from considering different types of fuel use as a factor when considering grantees for some programs.
“This case requires the court to exercise two of our most basic fundamental duties: to ‘delineate and maintain the proper constitutional balance between the coordinate branches of our State government with respect to the veto’ and, more broadly, to interpret the constitution faithfully,” the majority opinion said.
Justices went on to say the Legislature was within its authority in appropriating and controlling the expenditure of funds.
In his press release, Sen. Billig said Gov. Inslee’s most recent veto undermined the legislative process that created the bill.
“A key part of the legislative process is the negotiation and compromise that allows us to arrive at a version of a policy that can earn the votes to pass the Legislature,” he said. “I agreed to support those compromises in order to pass these bills and I will stay true to my word.”