September 3, 2019
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Legislators sue over governor's line-item vetoes in transportation budget

The Legislature filed suit last week against Gov. Jay Inslee, saying he violated the state Constitution with a series of unprecedented line-item vetoes that focused on single sentences in the state transportation budget.

Lawmakers said the one-sentence vetoes violated a constitutional ban on any line-item vetoes that target anything less than a full section of legislation.

"By vetoing individual sentences, we believe the governor has exceeded the constitutional power afforded to the executive branch," Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said in a written statement. "The checks and balances woven throughout our constitution are essential to a healthy democracy. This lawsuit is one of those checks."

Inslee had taken the usual step of crossing out a single sentence at the end of seven provisions of the budget about grant funding for transit services. Inslee excised sentences saying that fuel type could not be a factor in the grant selection process. The governor said that requirement was "contrary to, and in direct conflict with" state law that directs the Department of Transportation to consider energy efficiency.

"While my veto authority is generally limited to subsections or appropriation items in an appropriation bill, in this very rare and unusual circumstance I have no choice but to veto a single sentence in several subsections to prevent a constitutional violation and to prevent a forced violation of state law," Inslee wrote in his May veto message.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said this is an important separation of powers issue. House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said "it's important for the court to rule so both the Legislature and governor have a clear understanding of their authority in the future."

The last time this issue came up in the courts was in 2003, when lawmakers sued then-Gov. Gary Locke for a similar veto. Locke didn't fight the lawsuit; instead, in a one-day special session, he withdrew the vetoes. The high court had invalidated a Locke veto in 1999 on these grounds, while in 1997 upholding vetoes from then-Gov. Mike Lowry in 1994.

Inslee said he welcomes the judicial oversight on the matter.

"This is a respectful difference of opinion, and we look forward to forthcoming guidance from our courts," Inslee wrote.

The Associated Press and Spokesman-Review have more.

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Big Changes

Employers need to prepare for new noncompete laws

By Tim O'Connell of Stoel Rives

During the last legislative session, Washington took significant steps to limit noncompetition agreements for employees in the state and prohibit employer policies that ban moonlighting, impacting not only an important part of many local companies' strategies to protect their market position, but also employee loyalty.

The new state statute regarding noncompetition agreements and moonlighting policies demands attention from Washington employers...

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, employers that utilize noncompetition agreements need to carefully evaluate whether those agreements will meet the new state standards. If not, employers should revoke or revise those agreements prior to the effective date...

Properly structured noncompetition agreements and properly based policies regarding moonlighting are valid. Employers must, however, address these new limitations, sooner rather than later.

Read the full column in The Puget Sound Business Journal