Judge upholds Costco-backed liquor-privatization initiative

March 20, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 7 p.m. March 20, 2012

The state can continue to implement the Costco-backed initiative to privatize liquor operations, a judge ruled Monday.

Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning reversed a March 2 ruling and upheld I-1183. In the earlier ruling, Warning upheld most of I-1183, but decided the measure violated a state rule prohibiting initiatives from addressing more than a single subject. I-1183 included a section directing $10 million to public safety, in addition to the liquor-privatization language.

The attorneys for the state said the source of funds and the allocation of funds share a close connection, so the section did not violate the single-subject rule.

Issaquah-based Costco — the largest employer in the city — led the push to pass I-1183 last year. Statewide, almost 60 percent of voters supported the liquor-privatization measure. I-1183 garnered lopsided support in the Issaquah area.

The measure requires state-run liquor stores to close and for the state to get out of the liquor business. The measure also calls for the state to license private enterprises to sell and distribute hard liquor, set license fees based on sales and regulate licensees.

I-1183 limits hard liquor sales to stores of at least 10,000 square feet. Under the initiative, licensed and qualified businesses can start selling liquor June 1.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Mary Tennyson and Assistant Attorney General Bruce Turcott defended the initiative.

“Washington voters said they supported privatizing liquor sales in our state and directing $10 million of the proceeds from those sales to enhanced public safety,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a statement. “Today’s court ruling allows the state to continue to work to implement their directive.”

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