Supermajority for tax increases, local option for marijuana use subject of legislative committee hearings this week.

January 27, 2014

The minimum wage bill unveiled by House Democrats late last week received extensive news coverage, but no hearing on the bill is scheduled for this week. On Tuesday, January 28th, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will consider SJR 8213, a proposal to amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature, or simple majority support from voters, to raise taxes.

Voters in Washington have enacted or affirmed the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases five times during the past 20 years, including Initiative 1185 in 2012, which passed with a 64% yes vote—a greater margin than voted for President Obama or Governor Inslee.

The proposal is before the legislature once again, because in February the State Supreme Court overturned the two-thirds majority or voter approval requirement for tax increases.  The justices were clear that they were not ruling on the wisdom of the policy itself. Instead they said that ultimately the people should decide.

SJR 8213 will allow the legislature and the people to make this decision by making the requirement part of the State Constitution. The committee hearing will be held Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 4; A.J. Cherberg Building, Olympia.

Can municipalities just say “No” to marijuana production and sales?

Legislators have introduced 18 bills this session to sort out the implications of voter-approved Initiative 502, which makes limited marijuana use legal in this state. The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee will consider the question of local government options this Thursday, January 30th, when it holds a hearing on House Bills 2144, 2322, and 2638.

HB 2144 would assure that local governments receive at least some revenues from marijuana transactions statewide, while HB 2322 and HB 2638 would prevent cities and towns from prohibiting such transactions in their jurisdictions. 

If the legislature bars local governments from prohibiting marijuana transactions, it could present conflicts that would likely have to be sorted out in court. A number of cities have enacted temporary prohibitions on the production and sale of marijuana, and some, like the City of Redmond, will be holding Planning Commission and City Council hearings during the coming weeks on whether to make the prohibitions permanent.

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday in House Hearing Room 4, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia.