Government watchdog group threatens litigation over Washington’s 2022 transportation package

Washington-state-based Citizen Action Defense Fund says a bill passed by the state Legislature last year as part of an ambitious transportation package violates the single subject provision of the state constitution.
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The legislation in question is Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5974, one of four bills that make up the 16-year, nearly $17 billion ‘Move Ahead Washington’ transportation package

Brett Davis
The Center Square Washington

Washington-state-based Citizen Action Defense Fund says a bill passed by the state Legislature last year as part of an ambitious transportation package violates the single subject provision of the state constitution. CADF is threatening to take legal action if the state Attorney General’s Office doesn’t move to invalidate the legislation.

The legislation in question is Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5974, one of four bills that make up the 16-year, nearly $17 billion “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package meant to address a maintenance backlog on highways and bridges, complete various projects already underway, and upgrade the state’s ferry fleet.

According to a Tuesday letter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent by counsel retained by CADF on behalf of a contractor and a trucking company, “The Legislature passed ESSB 5974 as part of the state’s 2022 transportation budget package. The 122-page bill entitled ‘An Act Relating to Transportation Resources’ purports to amend, add, and repeal a variety of laws. As enacted, however, ESSB 5974 is unconstitutional under Article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution.”

Article II, section 19 states, “No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.”

The legal watchdog group contends many of the various provisions of ESSB 5974 are unrelated to its title or each other.

The letter says the bill goes beyond the general subject of transportation resources to include, among other things, reducing stormwater runoff, imposing new fuel standards, and expanding use of traffic cameras.

“The state’s constitution requires that all legislation have a single subject that is reflected in the title of the bill,” Jackson Maynard, CADF’s executive director, said in a same-day statement. “Unfortunately, the transportation package had multiple subjects – very little of which actually dealt with transportation resources.

According to the statement, if Ferguson fails to act against ESSB 5974, “CADF and the taxpayers will initiate litigation. If CADF wins and the law is overturned, millions of dollars would be kept in taxpayer pockets during a period of record inflation and uncertain economic times.”

Maynard continued “In the Legislature, legislation in which everyone gets to add something is nicknamed a ‘Christmas tree’ bill. Well it’s a new year and it’s time to take the Christmas tree down and send this unconstitutional bill to the garbage heap. Hopefully if the suit is successful this lawsuit will prove to be a real present for the taxpayers of the state.” 

The Center Square reached out to the Attorney General’s Office for comment on the letter but did not receive a response before publication.

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.

Should the state Attorney General's office invalidate the $17 billion 'Move Ahead Washington' transportation package?*
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John Ley
John Ley
13 days ago

I applaud the “contractor and trucking company” for taking this stand!

I hope they follow through and actually file the lawsuit.

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