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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Lt. Governor Tosses Two-Thirds Rule For 'New' Taxes

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Office of the Lieutenant Governor
Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen

In January, the Washington state Senate adopted a rule requiring that new taxes pass the Senate by a two-thirds vote. Monday Lt. Governor Brad Owen tossed it out.

Owen said the super majority threshold runs afoul of the state constitution. Owen pointed to a 2013 Washington Supreme Court ruling that overturned a voter-approved super majority requirement for tax hikes.

“The Senate cannot pass a rule that violates the state constitution,” Owen said. “Perhaps that statement should be clarified to read the Senate may adopt an unconstitutional rule, but the [Senate] president will not enforce it.”

Owen presides over the Washington Senate.

Majority Republicans adopted the two-thirds rule on the first day of the 2015 session.

The fight may not be over. Senate rules allow a majority of members to overturn the president’s rulings.