As seems to often be the case, the Washington State Supreme Court will soon make a determination on what was in the minds of hundreds of thousands of voters statewide who overwhelmingly passed Initiative 1183 last year to take the state out of the liquor sales and distribution business.
But wouldn’t it be easier for the Court’s members to just ask voters? That’s just what Washington Policy Center’s Jason Mercier envisions in his very satirical post Tuesday morning, his imagined version of how an open letter envisioning a State Supreme Court might be written:
Last November 59% of you voted to end the state’s prohibition era monopoly on liquor sales while creating a 21st-century liquor regulatory system enforced by the government. Opponents of this change argued last June that the ballot title for I-1183 should use the word “taxes” instead of “fees” to talk about the revenues raised to pay for public safety. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Pomeroy ruled, however, that:
“I’m going to tell you, I don’t like the word tax. It’s not a tax, it’s a fee. I’ve been here long enough to know that tax and fee mean two entirely different things, so you are at a disadvantage as you begin here. But I am telling you, I don’t like the word tax, because it is not a tax, people don’t like the word tax, and it is a fee. It’s a fee, it is a licensing fee, so I am going to tell you that.”
Despite this ruling from the Superior Court and losing the public debate after a spirited (no pun intended) campaign, these same opponents believe you were confused in voting for I-1183 – that the 1,128,904 of you who voted yes would not have done so if the word “tax” was used and if the $10 million appropriation to local governments for public safety was not included.
Since the state has already auctioned off its government liquor stores and private retailers are days away from stocking their shelves in anticipation of the June 1 transition to fully ending the government’s liquor monopoly, we’ve been asked by those who lost the election to quickly rule that I-1183 is unconstitutional and restore the government’s liquor monopoly.
Making such a quick reversal just days before private sales are to take effect would be a massive undertaking; we want to be very sure in coming to our decision and are hoping for clarification on whether you were confused about what you were voting on.
Should we decide to restore the government’s monopoly on liquor sales rest assured that we have full faith in your lawmakers to follow past precedent by quickly re-enacting the policy goal 59% of you wanted. Here are some of the quotes giving us this peace of mind in response to our past decisions voiding your support for ballot measures:
- “Our intent is to go in there and reinstate it. I believe the voters knew what they were doing. The voters were clear about their decision. We should respect that.” – Speaker Frank Chopp on re-instating the policy goals of the Court tossed I-747.
- “It’s important for the Legislature to act immediately on this to remove any uncertainty in the minds of the citizens of the state of Washington, to make it very clear that we will carry out Initiative 695.” – Governor Gary Locke on re-instating the policy goals of the Court tossed I-695.
Time is of the essence so please let us know A.S.A.P. if the 1,128,904 of you who voted for I-1183 didn’t know what you were doing.
In your service,
Washington State Supreme Court Justices
[featured photo credit: lumierefl]