State appeals the summary judgment dismissal of its
regulatory enforcement action against the Economic
Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County (EDB),
Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber (Chamber), and the Port of
Tacoma through its individual officers (Port). The State
alleged that the EDB, the Chamber, and the Port
(collectively, "defendants") failed to report
independent expenditures as required by the Fair Campaign
Practices Act (FCPA),  and that the Port used public funds to
oppose ballot propositions.
State argues that the defendants' legal expenditures
spent to block the Save Tacoma Water (STW) ballot
propositions were "independent expenditures" as
defined in RCW 42.17A.255, that the Port improperly used
public funds to oppose the STW ballot proposition under RCW
42.17A.555,  and that the trial court improperly
awarded fees and costs to the defendants.
defendants argue that the State's interpretation of RCW
42.17A.255 is erroneous and that it violates the First
Amendment and renders the statute void for vagueness. The
Port additionally argues that it did not improperly use
public funds because its actions fall within two exceptions
to the prohibition against the use of public facilities to
oppose ballot propositions in RCW 42.17A.555.
that the defendants made independent expenditures that
required disclosure under RCW 42.17A.255, that RCW 42.17A.255
does not violate the First Amendment and is not void for
vagueness, and that the Port used public facilities without
meeting either cited exception in RCW 42.17A.555.
Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's order of
dismissal, and we remand for further
Tacoma Water Ballot Proposition Proceedings
Charter Initiative 5 and Code Initiative 6 became local
ballot propositions when citizens filed the initiatives with
the Tacoma City Clerk before circulation for signatures.
These two ballot propositions aimed to require any land use
proposal in the City of Tacoma requesting a daily consumption
of at least one million gallons of water be submitted to a
defendants filed a declaratory judgment action against the
STW ballot propositions, seeking a judicial directive
preventing the STW ballot propositions from being placed on
the local ballot. The defendants argued that the STW ballot
propositions were beyond the scope of the City's
initiative power. Prior to filing the petition, the
Port's commissioners, at a public meeting, voted to
ratify the Port's decision to file a declaratory judgment
action. Ultimately, the declaratory judgment action
successfully blocked the provisions from being placed on the
ballot. Port of Tacoma v. Save Tacoma Water, 4 Wn.
App.2d 562, 579, 422 P.3d 917 (2018), review denied,
192 Wn.2d 1026 (2019).
Fair Campaign Practices Act Proceedings
citizen later filed a complaint with the attorney general,
seeking information regarding the defendants' use of
funds to challenge the STW ballot propositions. At the
request of the attorney general, the Public Disclosure
Commission (PDC) staff reviewed the complaint against the
defendants. PDC staff concluded that the EDB and the Chamber
made independent expenditures as defined in RCW 42.17A.255.
PDC staff also concluded that the Port did not violate RCW
42.17A.555. The PDC returned the matter to the attorney
general with "no recommendation for legal action."
Clerk's Papers (CP) at 451. The PDC mentioned the need
for additional rulemaking to provide greater clarity
regarding these provisions.
the PDC making no recommendation, the State, through the
attorney general, filed this action against the defendants,
seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief under the FCPA,
chapter 42.17A RCW. The State alleged that the defendants
failed to properly report independent expenditures made in
opposition to the STW ballot propositions in violation of RCW
42.17A.255. Additionally, the State alleged that the Port,
through its chief executive officer and its commissioners,
impermissibly used public facilities to oppose the STW ballot
propositions in violation of RCW 42.17A.555.
defendants filed summary judgment motions to dismiss. The
trial court granted the motions, dismissed the action, and
awarded attorney fees and costs to the defendants. The State
Standard of Review
review motions for summary judgment de novo. Voters Educ.
Comm. v. Wash. State Pub. Disclosure Comm'n, 161
Wn.2d 470, 481, 166 P.3d 1174 (2007). Summary judgment is
appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact
and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. CR 56(c). Here, there are no issues of material fact.
Rather, the parties disagree on the FCPA's statutory
scheme and constitutionality.
review de novo issues of statutory construction and
constitutionality. State v. Evergreen Freedom
Found., 192 Wn.2d 782, 789, 432 P.3d 805 (2019). When
engaging in statutory interpretation, we endeavor to
determine and give effect to the legislature's intent.
Jametsky v. Olsen, 179 Wn.2d 756, 762, 317 P.3d 1003
determining the legislature's intent, we must first
examine the statute's plain language and ordinary
meaning. Jametsky, 179 Wn.2d at 762. Legislative
definitions included in the statute are controlling, but in
the absence of a statutory definition, we give the term its
plain and ordinary meaning as defined in the dictionary.
Lockner v. Pierce County, 190 Wn.2d 526, 537, 415
P.3d 246 (2018); American Cont'l Ins. Co. v.
Steen, 151 Wn.2d 512, 518, 91 P.3d 864 (2004). In
addition, we consider the specific text of the relevant
provision, the context of the entire statute, related
provisions, and the statutory scheme as a whole when
analyzing a statute's plain language. Lowy v.
PeaceHealth, 174 Wn.2d 769, 779, 280 P.3d 1078 (2012).
there is more than one reasonable interpretation of the plain
language, the statute is ambiguous. Evergreen, 192
Wn.2d at 789. When a statute is ambiguous, we resolve this
ambiguity by engaging in statutory construction and
considering other indications of legislative intent.
Evergreen, 192 Wn.2d at 789-90. However, if the
statute is unambiguous, we apply the statute's plain
meaning as an expression of legislative intent without
considering other sources. Evergreen, 192 Wn.2d at
Scope of Challenges to Local Ballot Propositions
courts conduct pre-election review of local initiatives for
only two types of challenges. Coppernoll v. Reed,
155 Wn.2d 290, 298-99, 119 P.2d 318 (2005); City of Port
Angeles v. Our Water-Our Choice!, 170 Wn.2d 1, 7, 239
P.3d 589 (2010). Courts review challenges claiming either
that a ballot measure does not comply with procedural
requirements or that a ballot measure exceeds the direct
legislative power of the initiative. Coppernoll, 155
Wn.2d at 298-99.
litigant may challenge an initiative through a declaratory
judgment action. See, e.g., Spokane
Entrepreneurial Ctr. v. Spokane Moves to Amend
Constitution, 185 Wn.2d 97, 101, 369 P.3d 140 (2016). To
invoke the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, chapter 7.24
RCW a plaintiff must establish the four elements of a
"(1) . . . an actual, present and existing dispute, or
the mature seeds of one, as distinguished from a possible,
dormant, hypothetical, speculative, or moot disagreement, (2)
between parties having genuine and opposing
interests, (3) which involves interests that must be
direct and substantial, rather than potential, theoretical,
abstract or academic, and (4) a judicial determination of
which will be final and conclusive."
Coppernoll, 155 Wn.2d at 300 (emphasis added)
(quoting To-Ro Trade Shows v. Collins, 144 Wn.2d
403, 411, 27 P.3d 1149 (2001)). A party has standing to
challenge a proposed initiative when its interest is within
the zone of interests to be regulated or protected by the
proposed law and the party will suffer an injury in fact.
Spokane Entrepreneurial Ctr., 185 Wn.2d at 103.
FCPA is designed, in part, "to provide the public with
full disclosure of information about who funds initiative
campaigns and who seeks to influence the initiative
process." Evergreen, 192 Wn.2d at 790. The FCPA
contains several policy statements. RCW 42.17A.001. Notably,
the statute states that "political campaign and lobbying
contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the
public and that secrecy is to be avoided," that
"the public's right to know of the financing of
political campaigns and lobbying . . . far outweighs any
right that these matters remain secret and private," and
that "full access to information concerning the conduct
of government on every level must be assured as a fundamental
and necessary precondition to the sound governance of a free
society." RCW 42.17A.001 (1), (10), (11).
Further, chapter 42.17A RCW
shall be liberally construed to promote complete disclosure
of all information respecting the financing of political
campaigns and lobbying, and the financial affairs of elected
officials and candidates, and full access to public records
so as to assure continuing public confidence of fairness of
elections and governmental processes, and so as to assure
that the public interest will be fully protected.
42.17A.255(1) states, in part, that, "'independent
expenditure' means any expenditure that is made in
support of or in opposition to any candidate or ballot
proposition and is not otherwise required to be reported
pursuant to RCW 42.17A.220, 42.17A.235, and 42.17A.240."
The statute then states the reporting requirements for
independent expenditures. RCW 42.17A.255(2)-(5).
42.17A.555 contains prohibitions on the use of public
facilities to support "a campaign for election of any
person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to
any ballot proposition." However, the statute has
exceptions to this prohibition, including: "[a]ction[s]
taken at an open public meeting" and "normal and
regular conduct" of the entity. RCW 42.17A.555(1), (3).