The fight over McCleary—that's the Washington State Supreme Court decision ordering state lawmakers to adequately fund education—has gone to the next round, and this one's a doozy. Yesterday afternoon, the state supremes heard arguments on whether they should find Olympia lawmakers in contempt of court, since lawmakers missed yet another deadline this year to come up with a plan for complying with the court's orders.
Basically, the dysfunctional legislative branch has thumbed their nose at the judicial branch by not complying with the court's direction. "We can't figure this out, even though you ordered us to," they've essentially said to the judges. "But, y'know, we'll probably get around to it next year, if we're not too busy." Does the court now feel the need to smack them around a little to remind them how this is all supposed to work? If the court doesn't rain fire down upon Olympia after this, then does the judicial branch's check on government really function any more? (We've said it before and will say it again: We recommend punishing lawmakers by throwing 'em in jail.)
We don't know what'll come of today's hearing yet, but here's what Joseph O’Sullivan and John Higgins over at the Seattle Times had to say:
In a 50-minute session inside the Temple of Justice in Olympia, the nine justices of the state Supreme Court repeatedly asked why they should believe the Legislature’s promise that it will make more progress in the 2015 budget session than it has in all other sessions since the court’s 2012 landmark school-funding decision.
“I thought the questioning was fairly aggressive toward the state’s positions,” said state Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, who serves on the Senate’s budget committee.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s likely to be a finding the state is in contempt,” he added later.
But what might the court issue in the way of sanctions, and when? That was much less clear.
And a choice judicial quote from their piece:
“It’s been said that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” said Justice Charles Wiggins, questioning why the court should continue to wait.
Live tweets from the courtroom also captured that mood:
Court: You held a special session to provide a tax break for Boeing...but couldn't figure out how to fund K-12? #McCleary— PubliCola (@publicolanews) September 3, 2014
Never can tell from oral arguments but I think the state is about to get the kitchen sink thrown at it #McCleary— Olympia Watch (@OlympiaWatch) September 3, 2014
Who else was in the room? Oh, only 43rd District legislative candidate Jess Spear, tying this lack of action to a lack of leadership by her opponent, House Speaker Frank Chopp:
With a straight face, the WA state legislature argued it was "easier" to pass tax handout to Boeing than to fund education. #ChopChopp— Jess Spear (@jdubspear) September 3, 2014
The court has not signaled when they will issue a ruling in the matter. We hope, if only for entertainment's sake—oh yeah, and DEMOCRACY'S—that it'll be swift and punishing.