Published on Mar 13, 2020

Trial court affirms I-976 decision and lifts injunction

Contact: Logan Bahr, Shannon McClelland

A disappointing ruling came down from King County Superior Court on I-976.

After the court’s ruling in February, all parties filed motions for the court to reconsider its decision. On March 12, the King County Superior Court denied part of the plaintiff’s (AWC and coalition) motions for reconsideration (single subject (article ll, section 19) and amendment without reference (article ll, section 37) arguments) and granted reconsideration on the Kelley Blue Book argument. The court ruled that the Kelley Blue Book provisions in I-976 were unconstitutional under article 1, section 12. However, the court also determined those sections could be severed from the initiative, leaving the rest of the provisions in effect.

The court also granted the state’s motion to remove the injunction imposed in November 2019, as to all parties (except the City of Burien) effective March 27. That date is also the deadline for the court to hear any arguments to reinstate the injunction. Unless the court takes further action to reinstate it, the court’s removal of the injunction on March 27 will allow the remaining provisions of the initiative to take retroactive effect to December 5, 2019.

We are disappointed by the ruling, but we expect these decisions to be appealed, potentially including a request to reinstate the injunction. Ultimately though, we have always expected that the Washington State Supreme Court will decide I-976’s constitutionality.

Next steps

Unless the court reinstates the injunction, state law requires the Department of Licensing to refund any overpaid vehicle license fees during the injunction period – including local Transportation Benefit District (TBD) vehicle license fees. We will be consulting with the Department of Licensing to determine their timeline and next steps as to collection and refund of fees distributed to local entities after the initiative’s effective date.


State law requires the Department of Licensing to refund any overpaid vehicle license fees during the injunction period.

Please consult your city’s legal counsel for specific advice about how the court’s recent decision and WSDOT project delays may impact your city.

See AWC’s Legislative Bulletin for the latest updates on impacts of the supplemental transportation budget.


On February 12, the King County Superior Court ruled on the constitutionality of I-976 and upheld the initiative on the majority of legal challenges. The court also ruled that two legal arguments required a factual determination to be decided: impairment of the City of Burien’s bonds that pledge TBD revenues, and a challenge related to referencing a private company, Kelley Blue Book, in the initiative.

Both sides filed motions for reconsideration of the court’s decision, which the court scheduled for review on March 6. The plaintiffs asked the court to reconsider its decision upholding the initiative under the amendment without reference (article II, section 37) and single subject (article II, section 19) provisions of the state constitution in light of a decision by the state Supreme Court released on February 13 (Black v. Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority). The defendants’ motions asked the court to make a legal ruling on the Kelley Blue Book issue that was held for further factual determination and to lift the injunction for all parties except the City of Burien, due to the city’s bond issue.

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