Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 15, 2014

Supreme Court Barely Avoids Arresting State Legislature

WA Supreme Court

WA Supreme Court

Our state Supreme Court, for the first time in history, held our legislature in contempt for failing to fully fund education. Frequent readers of this blog knew this was coming after the state Senate Republicans blocked the Democratic education bills that closed tax giveaways to fund our schools.

Because our legislature has failed in its paramount duty (as outlined in our state constitution) the Supreme Court is holding them in contempt.

So what does that mean? Conceivably, it means the legislators themselves could be arrested, sanctioned or forced to work an extra session to resolve the issue. In practice, it sets up a constitutional crisis – what happens when one branch of our government levies sanctions on another? The results could be ugly but the court is willing to forestall any draconian measures until after this next session (2015). In essence, the court said, “You have one more chance to do this right.”

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys

Some legislators believe the Supreme Court should have no authority over them. When the court first issued the warning that legislators were not doing their job to fund education, Rep. Vincent Buys shot back with a fiery letter, warning them, “not continue to perpetuate a constitutional crisis by insisting on violating the very constitution every member of the court has sworn, by oath, to uphold. It is a crisis in which you will not prevail.” Buys continued that this was an “unwarranted extension of judicial authority.”

What the court is asking is not unreasonable. Our schools have been chronically underfunded from the state which has shifted the tax burden to local communities, forcing small town school districts to raise property taxes to cover basic operating costs. While this may work in, say, Bellevue or Mercer Island, where there is plenty of property tax money to be raised, it hits our rural communities much harder, leaving them with dilapidated schools and swelling class sizes.

The court demanding that we fund our schools may be “violating the very constitution” according to Buys, but from where I’m standing, it sounds like a good idea. Perhaps, rather than thumping their chests, our legislators should try passing legislation to fund our schools. Or they may end up with a much scarier result at the end of 2015.



  1. Shorter Vincent Buys: “Schools are well-known socialist organizations. We should never relent until all aspects of socialism are eliminated! Freedom! ”

    It’s amazing how much of this rot comes down to ENFORCED IGNORANCE. Ignorance is our biggest problem – and Buys and his ilk are all for forcing everyone to be not enlightened but more ignorant. Just consider the con job that got a majority in the best-educated State in the nation to vote to be ignorant rather than informed about GMO’s in their food. Thanks to evil profiteers enforcing ignorance through the most sophisticated propaganda machine ever devised by humans – the teevee. Not called programming for nothing – programming for maximum ignorance.


      • Thanks for making my point, metaphorically, Wayne. For in able to actually eat baloney, you have to be ignorant not only of what is in it, but how it is made.
        The problem with systematic ignorance enforcement is it is aimed at the mass- eventually, enough people (and it doesn’t have to be a majority) reach wisdom and will not remain ignorant.

  2. Yawn. Betcha this doesn’t get far.

    • Yeah, the Supreme Court doesn’t have a pair.

  3. You say “underfunded,” others say “overfunded.” The legislature decides what is under funded or over funded through the mechanism of the law… The definition of common school education has been dramatically expanded over the years… changes in the law can take care of much of the “funding” issue as can funding increases… Long ago the various studies on the subject disclosed that simply throwing money at education does not improve education… What is needed is some give and take on both sides and that cannot happen when one side is held hostage to the massive buying power of certain interest groups feathering their own nests at the expense of students. .

    • Well colleges across the board replace state funding with tuition increases, so I guess the question is do you prefer paying for education through taxes or debt passed onto the next generation?

      • That is NOT the point. The point is HOW the money is spent. Good teachers or CRAPPY teachers kept on through tenure.

  4. By the way, the headline “arresting the legislature” seems a bit of hyperbole…I don’t see where the constitution allows that while, on the other side, the constitution does allow the legislature to remove supreme court judges… Moreover, the legislature is in control of the RCWs governing contempt of court… it could simply pass legislation making itself immune… In other words… also, who gets arrested… only legislators who vote against whatever the Court thinks it wants…every legislator, even those who vote for what the court wants?

    • ” Moreover, the legislature is in control of the RCWs governing contempt of court… it could simply pass legislation making itself immune.”

      In theory. But the underlying issue is a partisan one, and such a draconian action as you suggest, Jack, would face a similar partisan divided. Read: highly doubtful such a bill could pass the House. Ds tend to like the balance of power the courts provide, and prefer supreme court justices’ constitutional interpretations to those of, oh, say, a Vincent Buys.

  5. “Well colleges across the board replace state funding with tuition increases, …”

    This issue does not concern post-secondary education.

    Perhaps the legislature should prioritize funding for education by agreeing to fund education first, before considering other issues.

    • Yeah like WELFARE for able bodied NON_workers!

  6. I don’t believe I possess enough suitably sardonic commentary for how vapidly asinine our education system has become. We spend tons of money on programs to teach math, science, and English, but neglect personal finance, foreign languages, leadership, citizenship, emotional quotient development, economics, marketing, art, music, physical culture, investing, and a whole host of other critically important subjects. Almost everything taught in schools is now available on the internet FOR FREE. Public school is at best a social experiment and at worst a Prussian-style industrial age dinosaur that is designed not to produce successful citizens but status-quo-accepting indentured servants. We are insane for thinking that we’re going to keep doing the same thing and get different results.

    The productive thing would be to decentralize the school system and have small learning centers in each neighborhood akin to Sylvan or other group tutoring. Or anything else other than what we are doing now, really. Since 99% of the actual growth in the job sector during the last decade came from self-employment, it might be a wise move to start training these kids how to build, manage, and maintain their own businesses.

    But let’s get real here and quit hobbling our children by saying that they have to go to university. I won’t go into the issue of student loan debt, but if the overall goal of our education system is actually to produce educated people, we have succeeded already. Look at how many thousands of people have advanced degrees and are working at Starbucks. We don’t need any more educated people in this country. What we actually need is educated people who are successful!! Education does not equal success. Education is the byproduct of a prosperous society.

    Time magazine recently came out with an article that detailed how much the American dream actually costs, which actually mirrored a consultation that I had with an economist back in 2007. I can’t member Time’s specific number, but I know it was right around $120,000 a year – after taxes. If we are not educating our children to achieve that level of income or higher, in my opinion we have failed as a society and a community. If I’m not working on making that kind of money and being a good example and mentor to my children, how can I expect them to have a solid foundation for success in life?

    • Matt – thanks for the heartfelt post. I call much of our pre-university education “enforced ignorance” – but I think we should be optimistic- why? Because I know young educators who are actually teaching kids about reality. Showing kindergartners how to learn to garden by doing it. Teaching them gently, to your point about the $120,000 after-tax American Dream requirement (which is about the top 5% of US income-earners) that it is possible to live a rewarding and full life with a much lower material standard of living. Because the reality is that our “economy” is an unsustainable fraud based on fundamentally destructive first principles: profit as the primary motive, e.g. Also that it is possible to release in the geological blink of an eye carbon that it took 200 million years to sequester and suffer no consequences. Enforced ignorance and we’re all part of it as it’s systematic. So trained into the unconscious that we are blind to it.

  7. Matt R- please elaborate on one of the parts of your post that just does not make any sense to me. 99% of actual growth in the job sector during the last decade is attributed to the self-employed? Aside from not knowing exactly what you mean by “the job sector”, I am more than a bit skeptical that 99 out of every 100 jobs arise from self-employment. So, perhaps it would be wise to start with real facts?

    • Matt was pretty much correct on “private sector” jobs. He didn’t say “private” but I got it. Talso, there was growth in the “public sector” jobs thanks to the socialist administration promoting them .

    • Without checking with Matt, I think he meant “net job growth” and meant that his figures applied to the private sector.

      A corollary statement would be, “100% of the net new jobs created in 2013 were created in Texas.” that does not mean, of course, that all the new jobs were created in Texas, does it? Nonetheless, it is true.

      • Unfortunately for me, I’ve misplaced the link to the article that supports my comment. If I find it, I’ll post it. Until then, take it with a grain of salt.

  8. It amazes me that some can say the things they do with a straight face.

    • Who specifically?

  9. […] Yes, for those following along at home, this initiative would cancel out Initiative 594 if it passes. Or at least give the Supreme Court something to consider rather than whether or not to arrest the entire state legislature. […]

  10. […] supreme court has handed down some fantastic decisions that really move our community forward. They’ve put a (metaphorical) gun to the legislature’s head, forcing them to fund our schools and haven’t interfered with legalization of marijuana. Well […]

  11. […] Funding education will continue to be a challenge. The legislature has continued to fulfil its court-mandated responsibility to fully fund education and this obstinance (highlighted by Rep. Vincent Buys letter blasting the Supreme Court) has our legislators facing potential jail time. […]

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