Washington legislature sends constitutional amendment relating to succession of powers during catastrophic incidents to 2019 ballot

The Washington State Legislature gave final approval for Senate Joint Resolution 8200 on April 17, 2019, sending it to the 2019 ballot. The constitutional amendment would authorize the legislature, during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies, to pass bills that address the succession of powers and duties of public offices when the offices’ incumbents and legal successors are unavailable for carrying out the office. In other words, the amendment would allow the legislature to pass laws temporarily filling certain vacant public offices in the event of a catastrophic incident.
 
It would allow the legislature to pass laws it determines are necessary to provide for “continuity of state and local governmental operations” even if those laws are at odds with the state constitution. As of 2019, the state legislature can pass bills that addressed the succession of powers and duties of public offices (such as filling vacancies) during periods of warfare against the United States causing substantial damage and injury in Washington.
 
On March 7, 2019, the Washington State Senate approved SJR 8200, with 37 senators supporting the amendment, 11 senators opposing the amendment, and one senator not voting. On April 17, 2019, the House approved the amendment in a vote of 91 to seven. Vote totals by party were not available as of April 19, 2019.
 
This is the first measure to qualify for the 2019 ballot in Washington. Two initiatives— I-976 concerning $30 car tabs and I-1000 concerning affirmative action— were certified to the legislature and are pending legislative action. The legislature can either approve them, reject them and send them to the ballot, or send them to the ballot alongside an alternative.
 
As of April 18, 2019, two other measures were certified to appear on state ballots in 2019. One measure in Colorado would authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs)—a specific type of bond debt—in the amount of $2.337 billion with no increase to any taxes. The other measure in Kansas would end the state’s practice of adjusting the U.S. Census population regarding military personnel and students when redistricting the Kansas State Legislature.
 
Around this time (mid-April) in 2017, six measures were certified for the 2017 ballot. In 2017, a seven-decade record for the lowest number of statewide ballot measure certifications was set—in total, 27 measures were certified to appear on state ballots in nine states. This continued a general trend toward fewer statewide measures. The last year in which there were fewer than 27 statewide measures was 1947. From 1987 through 2017, the average number of measures on the ballot in odd-numbered years was 50, with an average of 11 states in which measures appeared on the ballot. In odd-numbered years from 2007 to 2017, an average of between 32 and 33 measures appeared on the ballot in an average of eight states.



About the author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jackie.mitchell@ballotpedia.org

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