Initiative to repeal natural gas phase-out bill may soon get the green light

The court challenge to the ballot title for an initiative seeking to repeal the natural gas phase-out may come to a close on Wednesday afternoon.

By this weekend, signature gatherers for Initiative 2066 could potentially hit the streets.

The language of the initiative will be argued in front of a judge in Thurston County Superior Court, and a decision is expected shortly after the hearing, according to a backer.

According to Jim Walsh, Chair of the Washington State Republican Party and a member of the state House of Representatives, organizations like the Washington Environmental Council and Pacifica Law Group are leveraging this issue to create delays. He pointed out that the signature gathering process cannot commence until the title matter is resolved.

The organizations argue that the ballot title and description lack clarity and information.

“These challenges seem quite silly and, in my opinion, are meant to waste time. They don’t bring any substantial value,” Walsh remarked. “Their sole purpose seems to be to postpone everything for a few weeks.”

Supporters of I-2066 are aiming to put a stop to House Bill 1589, a highly debated legislation passed by the Legislature this session. The bill grants Puget Sound Energy the authority to initiate plans for transitioning away from natural gas.

The state Attorney General’s Office was responsible for writing the ballot title and description. When initially drafted, the title stated, “Concerns natural gas regulations.”

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Allyson Zipp has been requested by opponents to make significant revisions.

According to Walsh, these reviews cannot be appealed, which means that the trial court has complete control over the matter. During the hearing, the judge holds significant discretion and has the power to completely alter the title if they choose to do so.

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Zipp was urged to make a speedy ruling.

Walsh urged for a prompt resolution, emphasizing the need for a quick solution. He stated, “Let’s resolve it now and allow the people to make their decision.”

If the ballot title is approved on Wednesday afternoon, Walsh mentioned that supporters of I-2066 will be prepared to begin printing signature petitions promptly.

“We only have until July 5th,” he emphasized, alluding to the imminent deadline for submitting the signatures of a minimum of 324,516 registered voters.

According to Walsh, “We have done it before, so it’s not unprecedented. However, this timeline will be extremely tight.”

In the upcoming November elections, voters will have the opportunity to decide on three Republican-backed initiatives. These initiatives include the repeal of the state’s Climate Commitment Act, the repeal of the capital gains tax, and the option for individuals to opt out of the state’s long-term care program.

The hearing for I-2066 is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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