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I-937 Likely to Survive Legislative Session Intact

By Josh Feit April 21, 2009

Regular readers of PubliCola know we've been tracking (obsessed with) legislation that's been at play all session that would "amend" "gut" "improve" (depending on who you're talking to) I-937, the renewable energy initiative that voters approved in 2006. 

Here's the latest. The bill is in conference right now. (That's when select members from the Senate and the House get together, iron out their differences, and send an agreement back to both houses for a straight up or down vote). 

Sources (both from the Green camp and business camp) just told me that the conference bill will look exactly like the big compromise that was struck earlier in the session between Greens, who didn't want to tamper with the initiative at all, and utilities that wanted major changes (like loopholes out of the renewable energy standard). 

That compromise, supported even by the lefty Greens at the Sierra Club, got rid of the drastic changes initially pitched by the bill's Senate supporters—Sens. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) and Chris Marr (D-6, Spokane). And as an extra incentive (to get the Greens to go along with minor changes that allow very small utilities some leeway on meeting the goals) the compromise also included a provision that a $20 million renewable energy tax exemption—set to expire for good—would be extended. Greens credit Governor Gregoire for adding that sweetner. 

In the weeks following that deal, it suddendly seemed to be in jeopardy when larger municipal utilities in Tacoma and Clark County wanted in on the loopholes and started pitching amendments to the compromise. Those amendments are reportedly off the table now in the conference committee according to several reliable sources very close to the deal. 

"I have complete confidence that Sens. Brown and Rockefeller and Reps. Chopp and McCoy [the Democrats who are meeting in conference] will restore the compromise," says Craig Engelking, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

Although, he added wryly, "Isn't it ironic that a people's initiative is being amended behind closed doors?"

Greens are cautiously optimistic that "everyone will come out holding hands at the end," as one environmental lobbyist put it to me this afternoon. 

However, they added: If the tax exemption [which is in a separate bill]  doesn't make it through "we will ask the governor to veto this bill."

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