Attorney General, Legislature file “McCleary” reports with state Supreme Court, ask that sanctions be lifted

Yesterday the Legislature and state Attorney General filed reports with the state Supreme Court, saying that the state has complied with the court’s McCleary decision and asking that sanctions be lifted. 

The Attorney General’s memorandum begins,

The State has complied with the Court’s orders to submit a plan for achieving compliance with article IX, section 1 of the Washington Constitution. That plan provides a workable path and evidences the Legislature’s good faith and commitment to address the issues of compensation and funding. In addition, the State remains on schedule to complete the implementation plan in SHB 2776 (Laws of 2010, ch. 236) by 2018.

Because the State has complied with the Court’s order to produce a plan, the Court should lift the remedial monetary sanction that continues to accrue daily and dissolve the contempt order giving rise to the sanction.

In the next paragraph, the AG acknowledges there’s more to be done.

The State has not yet achieved, and does not claim to have achieved, full constitutional compliance. However, it has made significant cumulative progress over the last four years, increasing biennial funding for K-12 education by nearly $5 billion. The State is poised to finish the legislative work necessary to achieve compliance by 2018

The AG’s memo accompanies the Legislature’s report to the court, about which we wrote last week. The 22-page memo goes into detail, reviewing case history and arguing that, in passing E2SSB 6195 fully met the court’s requirements for a plan. 

Plaintiffs and others will disparage E2SSB 6195 as unworkable, too little too late, inconsequential, and worse. They will say it is not a plan and will exhort the Court to cast it aside and impose harsh sanctions on the State. But E2SSB 6195 is unquestionably a plan for addressing compensation and funding by the end of the 2017 legislative session. It provides a process—with precise timelines and benchmarks—for obtaining the information necessary to complete that task. It was duly enacted by both houses of the Legislature and signed by the 21 Governor.

The Legislature has done what the Court ordered and there is no basis for continuing to hold the State in contempt or to continue levying sanctions.

The AG’s prediction of the plaintiff’s response was spot on, as the Associated Press reports.

Thomas Ahearne, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the court needs to increase the pressure on lawmakers, either by shutting down the schools in the 2017 school year or closing hundreds of tax exemptions passed by the Legislature in order to find the money needed for compliance.

“Clearly, the Legislature did not take the court seriously, because they really didn’t do anything,” he said. “This idea that we have a plan to do a plan and we promise to do everything at the last minute isn’t the plan the court has been ordering for years now.”

The plaintiffs have 20 days to file their response. Then, in its own time, the court will decide.