Washington Supreme Court

Washington Supreme Court

OLYMPIA — The Washington Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to a partial veto by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2019 that nixed three projects that would have protected farmland.

Inslee also vetoed a subsection in the same bill that made higher fines for disturbing riverbeds dependent on approving the projects.

The Building Industry Association of Washington claimed the governor exceeded his authority by vetoing less than an entire section, foiling what lawmakers intended.

Lower courts didn't rule on the veto, but rejected BIAW's suit, ruling the group didn't have standing to sue because none of its members have been levied the higher fines.

BIAW attorney Jackson Maynard Jr. said Jan. 6 he's disappointed the court declined to hear the appeal, but that the BIAW will continue to press the issue in court.

The BIAW already has filed a separate lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court claiming that Fish and Wildlife raised fines to $10,000 a day from $100 after an unlawful veto.

"One way or another, we're going to get this illegal veto challenged," Maynard said.

The attorney general's office argued that disputes over the governor's veto powers should be worked out between the governor and Legislature.

Although the BIAW is concerned about builders facing $10,000 per day fines, the dispute rose over opposition to proposed river projects in Grays Harbor, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.

Lawmakers who backed the projects hoped to encourage work to keep farmland from eroding while also enhancing fish habitat. The proposed projects raised the possibility of removing gravel from rivers.

In his veto message, Inslee said the farmland projects didn't belong in the bill, which dealt with orca recovery.

The attorney general argued that cagey lawmakers crafted the bill to try to force Inslee to accept projects he opposed in return for the higher fines he supported.

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