It isn't often that the Lt. Governor gets to break a tie. But, it happened twice this year. All, in one week!
EXPECT A COURT CHALLENGE
Bill in question:
SB 5433 (Modifying the provisions of local option taxes)
If signed into law local government can impose an up to $20.00 license tab "fee." If you live in King County the math is simple. Count your cars and multiply by $20. Local government will also be allowed to impose a 7.5 cent property tax increase. There are also supplanting issues.
24+24+1+1=50 (not 49)
Tax seeking lobbyists were all set with a vote count of 26 ayes. There are 49 elected members in the Senate so 25 is a majority. This is ALWAYS a numbers game. What the pro tax lobbyists weren't counting on was the fact that 2 Democrat Senators who had committed to vote yes...flipped! There was one absent Republican. There was one Republican who voted Yes (no kidding) to the tax increases. That all equals 24 to 24. In any tie other than on final passage the Lt. gov. has always voted. That was done last week when Owen voted correctly on an amendment that protected property rights. But, this tie was on final passage.
Republicans challenged the casting of the vote. The Lt. gov. ruled (yes, he rules on this) that it was only Senate "tradition" that kept the Lt. govs. out of final passage tie breakers, and therefore ruled it was constitutional for him to cast the deciding vote.
It has long been known that Governor Owen has been waiting to have this question settled: "Can the Lt. Gov. break a tie on final passage?" But this particular challenge to "tradition" could cost taxpayers a whole lot of money. Wrong choice of venues!
There are two sections in our State Constitution that address the Lt. Governor and his/her voting in the Senate:
Article 2, Section 10 reads:
SECTION 10 ELECTION OF OFFICERS. Each house shall elect its own officers;
and when the lieutenant governor shall not attend as president, or shall act as
governor, the senate shall choose a temporary president. When presiding, the
lieutenant governor shall have the deciding vote in case of an equal division of
Article 2, Section 22 reads:
SECTION 22 PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final
passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for
and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of
the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.
If the Lt. gov were to be considered a member of the Senate then there would be 50 members and 26 would be the required number of votes on final passage.
I look for the liberal court to decide that the Lt. gov IS a member of the Senate when there is a tie on final passage. That would be the wrong ruling. Tradition DOES mean something to the court so maybe that will prevail. But, in this case the issue for them may be the taxes in the underlying bill. And, like in the stadium issue...they go for the money. In any event, look for an interesting and important case in the here and now of tax increases.
The record on SB 5433 shows 25 votes yea (including the Lt Gov), 24 votes nay, and 1 excused. That makes 50 and only 25 of 50, not a majority of 26 of 50, in favor.
IT IS A NUMBERS GAME. There are 9 in the Washington State Supreme Court.