EVERETT — A panel of state lawmakers will hold a hearing in Everett Thursday on whether Sound Transit improperly participated in the 2016 campaign to pass its $54 billion expansion plan.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee plans to probe ties between Sound Transit and organizations engaged in the political push to pass Proposition 1, the ballot measure for Sound Transit 3.
A topic in the two-hour hearing will be how Sound Transit improperly handed over email addresses of nearly 173,000 holders of ORCA cards to political forces conducting the pro-ST3 campaign.
Officials of the transit agency have said the error, which occurred in the summer of 2016, was made in the course of responding to a public records request from Mass Transit Now! for Sound Transit’s email subscriber lists.
The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. in the Community Resource Center’s school board room, 3900 Broadway Ave. in Everett.
This is the panel’s second public work session in as many weeks examining Sound Transit’s conduct leading up to voter approval of Proposition 1 in November 2016. The measure passed in King and Snohomish counties but failed in Pierce County.
Last week, in Kent, the panel focused on the content of a 2015 law which gave Sound Transit the authority to boost car tab fees and the sales tax, and impose a new property tax to fund the expansion.
Republican senators assert Sound Transit misled the Legislature on the amount it sought to raise from the suite of tax changes. Testimony centered on how the $15 billion to be collected over 16 years presented to lawmakers escalated to $28 billion over 25 years — and $54 billion overall — when the measure reached the ballot.
And the GOP senators also dug into the wording in the bill. They sought to make the case it was deliberately deceptive, maybe unconstitutional, because it masked the manner in which car tabs would be calculated.
Sound Transit officials point out the Public Disclosure Commission investigated and in February 2017 found no evidence agency employees or its contracted lobbyists “deceived or attempted to deceive any legislator regarding any aspect of Sound Transit 3.”
On Thursday, lawmakers may discuss Sound Transit’s use of an online survey to gauge public support for a draft of ST3.
That survey initially contained a question on whether those completing the survey would be willing to vote for the measure. Sound Transit removed the question after PDC staff advised it might run afoul of a state law barring the use of public resources to support political campaigns.
They will certainly discuss Sound Transit’s relationship with three organizations which aided and abetted Mass Transit Now! — Transportation Choices Coalition, Economic Alliance Snohomish County and Futurewise. Sound Transit is a dues-paying member of each group and some senators are concerned some of the dues found their way into fueling the campaign.