I have to start this article by giving full credit to Susan Johnson and her wonderful alcoholic beverage law for breaking this news. Kudos to you guys.
Two Superior Court suits have sprung up, challenging the validity of I-1183. As you are probably aware by now, I-1183 won a successful battle in November. The bill requires the state’s Liquor Control Board to start phasing out of the liquor business in 2012, along with other items like setting new licensing regulations for private vendors and new pricing regulations for wine.
According to Susan, the plaintiffs in each of the two suits have challenged the initiative on the basis that it potentially embraces more than one subject. Article II of the Washington Constitution specifically restricts both legislative and initiative-based legislation from encompassing regulation of two or more subject areas. In fact, this is a uniform rule of law that appears in probably every jurisdiction.
Back in my legislation days with the New York City Council’s General Counsel, I ran into this problem a number of times. Bills and proposals for law are typically tradeoffs, accommodating the needs of a number of different parties. With I-1183, the drafters had to offer additional criminal penalties for liquor law violators in order to gain support for privatizing the liquor market. This is one of the items that these lawsuits allege is improperly bundled.
General Teamsters Local Union No. 174 v. State is filed in King County Superior Court, while Washington Association for Substance and Violence Preventation (WASAVP) v. State in Cowlitz County Superior Court. Each of the complaints can be found by visiting the article posted on Susan’s blog. Perhaps most interesting is that the WASAVP have a pending motion for preliminary injunction, which will be decided later this week. So, stay tuned for that result.
I am extremely curious about who will intervene in these lawsuits. Of course, a number of serious governmental, public interest and trade organizations are likely to add to the legal fuss. One would certainly expect Costco to once again open their wallet to fight for private liquor.
As an early prediction, I presume that the courts will fend away these challenges in the preliminary stages. All of the regulation bundled within I-1183 deals directly with regulation of alcohol, and differentiating these industries, and the enforcement mechanisms designed specifically for them, is perhaps an improbable task.
We will keep an eye on this as it develops.