Laurel Demkovich

(Washington State Standard) The Washington State Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to take up a case against a Spokane ballot measure that bans camping within 1,000 feet of schools, day care facilities, parks and playgrounds.

The measure, known as Proposition 1, expands where homeless people are not allowed to camp or store personal property to include much of the city and almost all of downtown. It drew legal challenges even before it was overwhelmingly approved by Spokane voters in November.

In August, homeless service provider Jewels Helping Hands and Ben Stuckart, Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium executive director, filed a lawsuit against Brian Hansen, who led the initiative effort, seeking to remove the measure from the ballot.

A state superior court judge denied their request that month. A court of appeals upheld the measure in December.

Now, the state Supreme Court will weigh in.

The case does not look at whether the measure is constitutional, though that too has been questioned given the U.S. Supreme Court’s Martin v. City of Boise decision, which says cities cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances if they do not have enough shelter beds.

A different case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court known as City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson also looks at whether cities can punish people for sleeping outside when there isn’t enough shelter space. A decision in that case, which could reverse the precedent set in Martin v. Boise, is expected this month.

Instead, the Jewels case looks at whether the measure is outside the scope of what a local initiative can do. According to state law, local initiatives must not involve powers reserved for city councils, cannot conflict with state law and must be legislative, not administrative, in nature.

The superior court and the court of appeals both found the measure fit into all of those categories and therefore should remain in place.

If the state Supreme Court agrees with the lower courts, the ban will stay in effect. If the high court rules in favor of Jewels and Stuckart, the measure would be invalidated despite voter approval.