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Originally published Friday, March 9, 2012 at 11:47 AM

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King County court to hear tax initiative lawsuit

Arguments are scheduled to be heard in King County Superior Court on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1053, which requires a supermajority of the Legislature to raise taxes or close tax loopholes.

Associated Press

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SEATTLE —

Arguments are scheduled to be heard in King County Superior Court on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1053, which requires a supermajority of the Legislature to raise taxes or close tax loopholes.

The lawsuit is brought by the League of Education Voters, the state's largest teacher's union, parents, taxpayers and lawmakers.

Initiative 1053 was approved by Washington voters in November 2010 and has prevented lawmakers from adopting several tax increases since then.

Lawmakers are allowed to change or suspend initiatives after two years. But initiative sponsor Tim Eyman said Friday he has not decided whether to pursue a similar initiative this fall to try to keep that from happening.

Two years ago, voters overwhelmingly supported the initiative, which resurrected an old idea approved by voters as far back as 1993: putting a higher bar for legislative votes to raise taxes.

The idea had many business backers, who were trying to protect themselves from tax increases during the economic downturn.

Opponents said I-1053 would allow a small segment of the Legislature to overturn the principle of majority rule. The state constitution says most legislation is passed by a simple majority vote.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Bruce E. Heller will hear arguments for summary judgment.

In a brief filed by the attorney general's office, the state of Washington notes that the lawsuit was filed by nonprofit corporations because they believe they have an interest in successfully lobbying the Legislature to enact laws that would advance their public policy preferences.

"Successfully lobbying the Legislature is not a right or a legally protected interest, and the corporate plaintiffs do not (and could not) assert that RCW 42.133.034(1) prevents them from lobbying the Legislature to promote their interests," the brief said.

The attorney general's office also argues the state constitution sets a simple majority as the minimum for bill passage; it does not prohibit statutes that require a higher bar.

The brief also pointed out the state supreme court rejected a similar argument two years ago in a lawsuit brought by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown against another initiative.

Eyman called the attorney general's briefing in this case "exceptional."

The state of Washington is the defendant in this lawsuit because once voters approve an initiative it becomes state law.

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