A lawyer for the state argued Wednesday that the Washington Supreme Court should not hold the Legislature in contempt for failing to come up with a plan to fund schools because it would set back progress.
“Finding contempt and ordering a sanction could impede progress toward the ultimate resolution — the ultimate funding of schools — rather than promote it,” deputy solicitor general Alan Copsey told justices during a show-cause hearing.
The state Supreme Court is considering holding the Legislature in contempt for not complying with a court order related to the 2012 McCleary ruling, which found the state is not meeting its constitutional duty to fund K-12 education.
The court ordered the Legislature to come up with a detailed plan in April explaining how it will pay for schools through 2018. The Legislature failed to submit that plan, spurring Wednesday’s hearing.
Copsey asked the court to wait until after the 2015 session to give lawmakers time to write an operating budget and pass legislation to fund education.
“This court should give the 2015 Legislature the opportunity to act, but stand ready should legislators stumble in that duty,” said Copsey.
Justice Charles Wiggins questioned why justices should believe the Legislature will do things differently this time.
Copsey responded by saying the Legislature was not “thumbing its nose” at the court order, but it simply couldn’t agree on how to fund schools. He says he hopes legislators will come to an agreement in 2015.
An attorney for the McCleary family and other plaintiffs urged the court to take action against the Legislature.
“Call a spade a spade. They’re in contempt, don’t be afraid to say the word ‘contempt’,” attorney Thomas Ahearne told justices.
Ahearne said the court should demand the Legislature submit a plan by the end of 2014. If lawmakers fail to submit a plan, he said the court should step in with sanctions.
“The reason for a sanction is to coerce…the person who is not complying to actually comply,” he said.
The Supreme Court will respond at a later date. TVW taped the show-cause hearing — watch it below.