It’s not surprising that a couple of lawsuits have been filed to stop the loss of state jobs for workers employed in state liquor stores. Two unions are suing in King County to prevent the breakup of the state liquor sales system that voters approved last month with the passage of Initiative 1183. Someone who leases space for a state liquor store has filed a second complaint in Cowlitz County.
There have been numerous lawsuits over the years that have tried to stop voter- approved measures from being implemented. The arguments are always the same, that the initiative covers more than one topic and therefore does not pass the requirements for initiative law making.
The public’s reaction to the news of the lawsuits has been fairly angry. The news drew a significant number of comments all having the same tone. The initiative won approval by a large public margin indicating that voters are ready for privatizing liquor. Most are saying that the voters are educated and knew what they wanted.
Attorney Michael Reitz, general counsel for the Olympia-based think tank, The Freedom Foundation, doubts the legal challenges will carry much weight in court. Complainants, he writes, face “a tough, uphill battle” in making their case. He said the courts have ruled that the burden of proof is on the complainants in legal challenges like we have seen in reaction to the voters’ approval of 1183.
According to Reitz, it’s permissible for an initiative (or legislation) to contain multiple changes to law as long as they are related to the bill title. The author of the ballot title, he notes, was the State Attorney General’s Office.
In an analysis he issued about the lawsuits, Reitz wrote: “There’s no constitutional violation for having ‘too much stuff’ in a bill. It’s a single subject rule, not a single impact rule. Initiative drafters aren’t required to be fortune tellers.”
We’ll have to wait and see what the courts decide. Meanwhile, the state has begun emergency rulemaking to begin the transition from public to private sale of liquor in the state by June of next year.
The Washington Retail Association supported I-1183 because studies showed it would boost revenues to state and local governments by about $443.2 million between 2012 and 2017, add convenience for shoppers and give retailers the chance to grow revenues. Our state’s liquor sales network had become obsolete, especially during these troubled times for an economy struggling to overcome the worse economic downturn in our lifetimes.
While the unions might think they can win in court, I don’t think they can win public approval. As these types of issues come up and unions force their viewpoints on voters through various sit ins, walk outs, and lawsuits, it’s a wonder that anyone is sympathetic. Unless you get money from them in some way, unions are not a popular political group. They are simply bullies using their wealth to fund these actions.
Jan Teague is President and CEO of the Washington Retail Association, which represents 2800 storefronts across the state. Named a “Woman of Influence” by the South Sound Business Examiner, she is a Board member of the Association of Washington Business, a member of the Coalition of Washington Business Organizations and was 2010 President of the State Council of Retail Associations.