Washington Legislature sues Inslee again over veto power

December 21, 2021 GMT

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington lawmakers are suing Gov. Jay Inslee for the second time over allegedly exceeding his veto power.

The Northwest News Network reported Monday the lawsuit is in response to the governor line-item vetoing parts of the state transportation budget and eliminating a subsection of a low carbon fuels bill earlier this year.

Generally, the governor is limited to vetoing entire bills, entire sections of bills or whole appropriation items in a budget bill.

Last month, in a separate lawsuit, the Washington Supreme Court sided with state lawmakers over Inslee’s previous use of the veto pen, calling cases like this a test of two of the court’s most fundamental duties: “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 lawsuit revolves around Inslee’s May veto of a subsection in the low carbon fuel bill that would have delayed portions of the law until passage of a new statewide transportation funding package.

Inslee has justified his veto, saying the Legislature can’t design a bill section with the intent of circumventing the governor’s veto authority.

Inslee also excised several lines referencing “fuel type” from the state’s 233-page transportation funding bill. Specifically, the lines he vetoed prohibited consideration of fuel type when issuing transportation-related grants.

The governor said those references amounted to a substantive policy change. In their lawsuit, the legislators note the language Inslee vetoed from the 2021-23 transportation budget is the “exact same sentence” he vetoed in the 2019-21 transportation budget, which resulted in the previous lawsuit.

In a statement Monday, Inslee’s office said it was disappointed by the Legislature’s decision to sue again and that “we remain confident that the governor acted within his legal authority with these vetoes.”

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, a Spokane Democrat, said the lawsuit was “about protecting the authority of the legislative branch and maintaining the balance of power as prescribed by our state Constitution.”

In a separate statement, Senate Minority Leader John Braun, a Republican from Centralia, noted that all four legislative caucuses were united in the lawsuit, and that it was “not a partisan effort to undermine the governor’s authority.”

“This is a bicameral, bipartisan effort to preserve the Legislature’s lawmaking power,” he said.

The lawsuit seeks to have Inslee’s vetoes invalidated and the language he struck resurrected.