Washington legislature sues Gov. Inslee again over alleged abuse of veto power

Once again, the Washington Legislature has decided to file a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, saying he has abused his veto power in office.

The litigation came from line-item and subsection vetoes made earlier this year by Inslee. Those vetoes took place as Inslee signed into law the state transportation budget as well as a new low carbon fuel standard.

The new fuel standard limits the carbon intensity of transportation fuels sold in the state to 20 percent lower than 2017 levels by the year 2038. Usually, the position only allows the governor to veto entire bills, whole sections of bills, or entire appropriation items in a budget bill.

In a separate lawsuit filed last month, the Washington Supreme Court took sides with the state lawmakers over Inslee’s “scalpel-like use of the veto pen,” and the court called cases like this a test of the its fundamental duties, which are: “to ‘delineate and maintain the proper constitutional balance between the coordinate branches of our State government with respect to the veto’ and, more broadly, to interpret the constitution faithfully.”

The new suit revolves around the governor’s veto of a subsection in the low carbon fuel bill. That provision would have delayed portions of the law until passage of another statewide transportation funding package.

Inslee justified the veto by saying that the legislature cannot design a bill section with the goal of evading the governor’s veto authority.

In his May veto statement, Inslee said, “It strains the imagination to discern any reason for embedding into a single section a delayed effective date that impacts not just that one section but also multiple additional sections, unless that reason is to prevent it from being vetoed.”

But legislators on both sides of the aisle have joined together in the lawsuit in order to “protect the authority of the legislative branch and maintaining the balance of power as prescribed by our state Constitution,” as told by Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, a fellow Democrat.

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