Earlier this year, Washington state lawmakers decided that counties with more than 400,000 people should have five members on county commissions.
Spokane County still has three commissioners, and now that board is planning to fight the state’s new rule.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French said the county plans to file a lawsuit to stop the plan, because, he says, the bill violates the state constitutional requirement that counties have a uniform structure of government, unless voters adopt a charter through a constitutionally approved process.
French says when county voters weighed in on that idea in the past, they rejected it.
He also opposes the new requirement that all commissioners be elected by district in both the primary and general elections.
“Current structure says we elect by district in the primary, at large in the general. Well, this legislation says you can only vote for one of the five county commissioners. So now your vote has been reduced by 80%, because you can only vote for one of five. You will never be able to vote for all of those people that will control your taxes, control your public safety, control land use policies,” he said.
French said even if a lawsuit fails in the courts, he is ready to challenge it another way.
“I’ve committed that I will hold a freeholder process, and if we adopt a county charter, and say we want three county commissioners, and take ourselves out of the control of this legislation. It targets counties over 400,000 that don’t have a charter. So we adopt a charter and tell the legislature they can put this piece of legislation someplace else,” he said.
French says the overall cost of expanding the board to five members will cost at least $500,000 a year, while filing a lawsuit to stop it will be much cheaper.