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Pending Lawsuits Against 1183

Lesley McClurg

This fall, Costco spent $22 million in their efforts to privatize liquor sales through Initiative 1183. Voters passed the initiative with a 60 percent vote in November. But opponents are not stepping down easily. Two lawsuits were filed this week charging that 1183 is illegal. The cases argue that the initiative is unconstitutional because it includes hidden provisions that violate the state's one–issue law. But as KUOW's Lesley McClurg reports, defining "one issue" can be tricky.


The gist of the lawsuits is that 1183 deceived voters by cleverly adding in a few extras. Tom Geiger is a spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers Union. He says 1183 goes beyond just privatizing liquor sales. It also changes wine distribution laws, alcohol advertising regulations and creates new franchise protections for liquor distributors. And Geiger says a package deal isn't what voters passed.

Geiger: "There is a reason why the state constitution and the state law has that single–subject rule. It is to allow for people that are voting on something to be voting on what they've been sold, to be what they thought they were voting on. I believe that Costco was deceitful in that process and our claim in the courts is that that's illegal."

Supporters of 1183 say the initiative doesn't violate the one–issue rule because its provisions all fall under the larger category of liquor sales. Mark Smith teaches political science at the University of Washington. He says cases like this are relatively common.

Smith: "There is a lot of evidence that more initiatives get struck down as violations via the single subject or constitutionality than do the laws passed by the Legislature."

That's because initiatives are written by the people and receive less scrutiny than other laws. Unless the lawsuit is successful, large retailers are scheduled to start selling liquor on June 1.

I'm Lesley McClurg, KUOW News.

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