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Governor signs climate change bills, with controversial and legally-questionable line-item veto opposed by legislative leadership.

Gov. Inslee signed his priority climate change legislation yesterday, while vetoing a linkage to a future transportation package that legislative leaders believed essential to reaching what some called a “grand compromise.” In our April 28 newsletter, we described the governor’s climate change legislation has having passed “with an asterisk.” The veto crossed out the asterisk.

The Seattle Times reports,

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Monday signed into law a carbon-cap program and a clean-fuels standard, but vetoed parts of those bills requiring a new statewide transportation-funding package in order for the ambitious climate legislation to take effect.

Inslee’s move — capping a big win on climate legislation while once again testing the bounds of his executive powers — essentially scrapped the “grand bargain” that was struck in the Senate to make sure those two bills passed the Legislature last month.

Legislative leaders reacted swiftly.

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said in a statement:

“Washington Courts have consistently held that as a co-equal branch of government, the legislature is responsible for drafting laws and the executive branch is responsible for implementing them. The Constitution provides the governor only limited powers to veto legislation. The governor’s partial veto today of E3SHB 1091, the clean fuel standard bill, reaches beyond his constitutional powers and we will ask the Washington courts to again rule on the balance of legislative and executive branch powers.”

So, too, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig:

This veto is an overstep of executive power. The governor has attempted to create a power for his office that simply does not exist. The constitution is clear that the governor is permitted only to veto a full section of a bill. In this case he has vetoed a subsection.

“What’s worse, this is the second time in recent years this governor has attempted to invent such a power. He lost in court then. He will lose again.

“Make no mistake, the Legislature will use every power at its disposal to push back and preserve the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches as prescribed by the Washington State Constitution.

“The partial veto on HB 1091, as well as the partial veto of the Climate Commitment Act, undermine the legislative compromises that allowed these bills to reach the governor’s desk in the first place. A key part of the legislative process is the negotiation and compromise that allow us to arrive at a version of a policy that can earn the votes to pass the Legislature. I agreed to support those compromises in order to pass these bills and I will stay true to my word.

“I am concerned that undoing good faith negotiations will severely hurt our ability to reach agreement on important policies in the future.

“Regardless of the governor’s vetoes of the links to the transportation investment package, we remain committed to passing a plan that will bring transportation improvements to communities across Washington. I will continue to work with my legislative colleagues with an eye toward a possible special session later this year to deliver these investments for the people of Washington state.”

Back to The Seattle Times for the governor’s response.

Meanwhile, in a statement released by the governor’s office Monday said “there never was a grand bargain, as far as the governor’s role in the process is concerned …”

“Even without a veto a bargain that potentially delays urgent action on climate change and still not guarantee a transportation package is no bargain at all,” the statement said.

And for more legal context.

The governor’s maneuvers Monday raise questions — and potentially challenges — about whether the vetoes undertaken exceed his executive authority. Last year, a Thurston County Superior Court judge invalidated a pair of vetoes made by Inslee, ruling that they fell outside the governor’s powers outlined in the state constitution. That case is expected to be heard by the state Supreme Court in June.

The ST also cites sharp comments from Senator Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, and Senate Republican Leader John Braun. 

MyNorthwest reports,

[The] compromise was highly negotiated in talks led by Senate Transportation Chair Senator Steve Hobbs, who says it is the only reason moderates voted for these bills.

Hobbs said the governor vetoed linkage language in the Cap and Trade bill (SB 5126) and did a line item veto on the Clean Fuel Standard bill (E3SHB 1091).

“You’re not allowed to do that as governor,” Hobbs said. “It’s illegal.”

While that line item veto will prompt a lawsuit, Hobbs said the bigger issue is mistrust.

“It blows up the trust, compromise that we try to give these bills together. It’s very disappointing,” he said.

Hobbs is now calling on legislative leadership to unite and override what he calls a gross overuse of executive power.

More in Washington State Wire and the Spokesman-Review.

And, clearly, much more to come.