Pierce County joins legal battle defending I-976

TACOMA, Wash. – Pierce County elected leaders have jumped into the legal battle over $30 car tabs.

Late Tuesday afternoon, county council members passed legislation 4-3 in approving the county prosecutor to move forward to defend I-976.

The voter-approved measure is on hold right now as lawyers battle over whether the initiative violates the state constitution.

The ball started rolling last week when the Pierce County Executive asked the county prosecutor to defend the validity of the initiative which passed locally overwhelmingly by 66%.

I-976 is currently on hold by court order after the city of Seattle, King County and others sued.

The lawsuit halted the $30 tabs from going into effect, and taxpayers will not immediately see the relief that they thought the initiative would provide.

According to Pierce County elected officials, Tuesday’s legislation is meant to defend the will of county voters and intervene in the lawsuit to help the state Attorney General’s office defend I-976.

Council Member Pam Roach said the county government has an obligation to fight for the will of its voters.

“We’re a big county, we’re the second-largest county in the state and I think it’s kind of hard to ignore this, I kind of hope that is the case,” she said.

Tuesday’s meeting was packed with I-976 supporters who were joined by Tim Eyman, the initiative’s champion. There were also other members of the public at the council meeting, including those who worried many could suffer if I-976 eventually becomes law.

“I think it guts public transit, which is essential to a thriving community, said Rydel Kelly.

Other county council members who voted against the legislation said battle could be too costly for taxpayers and that the state Attorney General's office should instead handle the initiative's defense.

This latest fold further complicates the legal battle.

A King County superior court judge will decide whether Pierce County will be allowed to join the fight.

It’s likely the case could be heard in Seattle this Friday.