Washington Law Review


In 2002, the Washington legislature passed the Personnel System Reform Act (PSRA), which gives state employees the right to collectively bargain over wages and other economic terms of their employment. Section 302(3) of the PSRA further provides that once the Governor and collective bargaining units reach a proposed collective bargaining agreement, the legislature may not amend the agreement. Instead, the legislature may only express disapproval with any portion of the agreement by rejecting funding of the agreement as a whole. This Comment argues that section 302(3) of the PSRA, now codified at RCW 41.80.010(3), violates the separation of powers doctrine under the Washington State Constitution. The separation of powers doctrine forbids one branch of government from invading the province of another, especially if doing so alters the constitutional system of checks and balances. Under article VIII, section 4 of the Washington State Constitution, the legislature holds near-exclusive power to determine how public funds will be spent. By contrast, the Governor's check on this process is limited to the line item veto. The PSRA turns this process on its head: the Governor determines the level of funding and the legislature holds the veto, thus giving the Governor primacy over spending in this area. By doing so, section 302(3) usurps one of the legislature's core functions, upsets the system of checks and balances, and violates the separation of powers doctrine.

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