Method, Procedure, Means, and Manner: Washington’s Law of Law-Making

Kristen L. Fraser, Method, Procedure, Means, and Manner: Washington’s Law of Law-Making, 39 Gonz. L. Rev. 447 (2004).

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The relevance of Washington’s state Constitution increases with each legislative session and each election season. The legislature and the governor spar over exercise of the governor’s veto authority, while the courts must deliberate over the legislature’s ability to pass omnibus legislation or its refusal to make statutorily required appropriations. Separation of powers debates, formerly three-cornered, now must also consider the electorate’s law-making power. These disputes demonstrate the need for public understanding of the state constitution and its provisions governing the exercise of the law-making power. This article provides a survey of the state constitutional provisions that establish the law of law-making, along with illustrative cases and other sources of law and procedure.

Both state and federal constitutions impose a variety of limits on the substantive laws that may be enacted by their respective legislative branches. In the area of procedural restrictions on the legislative power, however, the federal and state constitutions differ substantially. The United States Congress enjoys great freedom in setting its own rules of legislative procedure. The state constitutions, in contrast, contain a variety of restrictions on the legislative process. For the most part, such restrictions did not appear in state constitutions as originally drafted. Instead, states adopted constitutional amendments throughout the 1800s in response to perceived legislative abuses:

Last-minute consideration of important measures, logrolling, mixing substantive provisions in omnibus bills, low visibility and hasty enactment of important, and sometimes corrupt, legislation, and the attachment of unrelated provisions to bills in the amendment process-to name a few of these abuses-led to the adoption of constitutional provisions restricting the legislative process. These constitutional provisions seek generally to require a more open and deliberative state legislative process, one that addresses the merits of legislative proposals in an orderly and rational manner…. Read More

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