This Wednesday Governor Gregoire will take action on the remaining bills from the special session including a proposal to request a contract for running the state’s liquor distribution monopoly. Despite this proposal (SB 5942) not being assumed for the budget, an emergency clause was added to the bill meaning a referendum could not be run on the bill and the contract review process would take effect immediately. The emergency clause has worried supporters of a new initiative to end the state’s prohibition era liquor monopoly. They believe SB 5942 could short circuit voters’ opportunity to consider their new liquor reform proposal.
Not surprisingly supporters of SB 5942 have written the Governor requesting that she sign the bill in its entirety including the emergency clause. Among those writing was bill sponsor Sen. Zarelli who notes:
“I have no doubt that some will urge you to veto the bill in whole or in part. I hope that you will reject these requests. This bill, and all its elements, were heavily debated in both the House and Senate. In fact, the emergency clause that was removed on the Senate floor was put back on the bill in the House and we agreed to include it in the final legislation. While I believe this clause can sometimes be misused by the Legislature, in the case I believe that this RFP process should commence immediately according to the timeline in the legislation.”
House Democrats that supported SB 5942 concur that the bill should be signed with the “deliberate” emergency clause noting:
“Many of us would rather keep the liquor system as it is. And the voters agreed with us as shown in the last election cycle and the defeat of the two liquor privatization initiatives. However, it appears the debate about how we sell liquor in our state continues and there is a real threat that the whole system could leave the public domain and go totally private without much consideration of our workers or the revenue brought to the state . . . Before you is SB 5942 which is the result of our thoughtful consideration. All the sections in the bill are deliberate.”
Opponents of the emergency clause in the bill have written urging a veto of the clause.
Rep. Wilcox wrote:
“An emergency clause in this bill is unnecessary and premature. There is no emergency from a fiscal standpoint.”
Rep. Condotta notes:
“I do have a major concern with Senate Bill 5942 and the strong arm tactics used to add an emergency clause. It is obvious this is an attempt to preempt the Costco Initiative this fall. Please consider vetoing the emergency clause to make this a legitimate bill. I am not supporting the Initiative one way or the other but think it would be scandal (at best) to try and sign a contract before a vote of the people.”
Sen. Sheldon, Washington Retail Association, Washington Restaurant Association, Washington Food Industry Association, and Northwest Grocery Association have also asked the Governor to veto the emergency clause. The Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28 joined with supporters in urging the bill be signed in its entirety.
Here is a copy of all the letters (pro and con) sent to the Governor requesting various action on SB 5942.
The Governor has already vetoed the emergency clause off of four bills from this year:
- HB 1509 – Relating to the forestry riparian easement program
- HB 1663 – Relating to the purchasing authority of institutions of higher education
- HB 1861 – Relating to the sale or lease of surplus state-owned railroad properties
- SB 5788 – Relating to regulating liquor by changing tied house and licensing provisions and making clarifying and technical changes to liquor laws
As the current debate on the emergency clause for SB 5942 demonstrates, it is unfortunate the Legislature did not act on HJR 4200 to reform the use of the emergency clause. That proposal would have asked voters to amend the constitution to require a 60% vote of lawmakers to attach an emergency clause to a non-appropriation bill.
Had that standard been in effect for this session an emergency clause would not have been successfully added to SB 5942 based on the vote count (52-42 in House and 26-19 in Senate).
Surprisingly, the emergency clause on another controversial bill (workers’ comp reform) has not drawn veto requests despite complaints from opponents.
Former Rep. Brendan Williams wrote for Crosscut:
“Not only was the public given no opportunity to comment upon HB 2123 through a hearing (prior to its passage there wasn’t even a public fiscal note), but a Republican ’emergency clause’ amendment was added to deprive the public their constitutional right of referendum.”
In writing the Governor, however, state unions did not request a veto of the emergency clause or the whole bill for that matter, but only requested a veto of the “structured settlement agreements.”
Unlike SB 5942, HB 2123 would have met the standard set by HJR 4200 for attaching an emergency clause with the required supermajority approving the bill in both the House (69-26) and the Senate (35-12).
[photo credit: flickr]
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