Published on Nov 27, 2019

Court stays implementation of I-976

Contact: Logan Bahr, Shannon McClelland

Earlier this month, AWC joined a broad coalition in filing a suit, including seeking an injunction, to determine Initiative 976’s (I-976) legality. On November 27, t­­­he trial court granted the coalition’s request for a preliminary injunction on I-976. The injunction will enable local transportation funding to continue to be collected while the court determines the constitutionality of the initiative.

What happened

On November 18, AWC and its coalition partners filed a motion requesting the court prevent I-976 from taking effect. Our motion persuaded the court that immediate, substantial, and irreparable harm would occur if I-976 was implemented on December 5, the effective date of the initiative. Further, we argued that a temporary injunction is warranted in this case because the court is likely to find I-976 unconstitutional. The court ruled in our favor and, by ordering the injunction, has temporarily stopped I-976 from taking effect.

Moving forward

The legal effect of the injunction means that the law as it existed before the November 5general election remains the law while the lawsuit works its way through the courts. Vehicle license fees will continue to be imposed as the current law allows. The court order also directs the state to continue to collect and distribute all fees, taxes, and other charges impacted by I-976 to the appropriate entities.

As cities continue to receive TBD revenue, each will need to consider the best approach on whether and how to use those funds while the lawsuit is pending. If the Washington Supreme Court ultimately decides that I-976 is constitutional, state law requires the Department of Licensing to refund any overpaid vehicle license fees during the injunction period. Consult your city’s legal counsel for specific advice about how the injunction may impact your city.

On November 6, Governor Inslee directed the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to postpone projects not already underway, and directed other affected agencies including the State Patrol and Department of Licensing to defer non-essential spending. On November 26, WSDOT provided a list of which projects are delayed and more information on how the agency is proceeding. WSDOT’s letter and list of projects is linked below. As state agency programs make decisions on short-term funding impacts, AWC will continue to share updates through our website and newsletters.


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