Yesterday the Washington State Supreme Court decided that King County critical areas ordinance was not subject to county referendum.
In Washington, all laws are subject to voter referenda. The Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision, that because the ordinance was required by state law, that the county could not overturn it by referendum. That makes sense, except for the fact that the specifics of the ordinance were not required, mandated, or instructed by state law. Their origin was purely at the county level.
This ruling makes not a jot of sense. We've seen this Court be extremely hostile to the voter referendum section of the state Constitution in the past -- including throwing out an initiative that a judge arbitrarily decided wasn't "understood" by the voters -- and now they are taking away the right to referendum itself.
It would be different if the law in question (the Growth Management Act) had something to say about referenda, if it somehow limited referenda on decisions required of the counties by the GMA. Then you would have a battle over whether it is even legal for the GMA to have such a limitation on a Constitutional right of the people.
Indeed, though, the GMA was designed specifically to allow for local control, to rely on it. Local referenda are an integral part of what it means to have local control. State approval of the plans is not required (though they are subject to challenge, if they do not comply with the GMA).
Justice Charles Johnson, who concurred with the decision, wrote: "where the state law requires local government to perform specific acts, those local actions are not subject to local referendum." But that makes no sense, as it undermines the right to referendum at every level of government other than the state level.
It's pathetic and sad.