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Opposition Attorney Contends Not Valid Petition Signatures

July 24, 2018
phoenix solar panel

The question of whether voters get to decide on a new renewable-energy mandate for utilities could turn, in part, on how many petitions signatures a judge lets Arizona Public Service challenge.


Attorney Brett Johnson confronts that close to 70% of the more than 480,000 signatures submitted on the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative campaign are not valid. Some of the challenges are based on things like whether the circulator was legally entitled to gather signatures and questions about the whether the petitions were properly notarized.


But Johnson, representing a committee financed by the parent company of the state’s largest electric utility, also alleges that more than half of the signatures are invalid on their face, whether due to the people not registered to vote in Arizona or that their signatures are not proper. That claim alone, if proven, potentially leaves the petition drive short of the 225,963 valid signatures required to put the issue on the November ballot.


Arizona law does not require county recorders to check the validity of every signature. Instead, they review a random sample of 5%.


Johnson said the 5% sample is just one method of determining validity. And he pointed out a section of law specifically says that “any person may contest the validity of an initiative or referendum.”


A hearing is scheduled by Kiley Monday, July 30, to consider the issue.


Even if Johnson loses that argument, he has a veritable grab-bag of other legal reasons that Kiley should knock the measure off the ballot when there is a full trial, now set for August 20.


At issue is whether voters get to put a provision in the Arizona Constitution mandating that at least 50% of electricity generated in the state should come from renewable sources by 2030. That compares with an Arizona Corporation Commission rule requiring 15% of power from sources like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.


If approved, it would apply to APS, Tucson Electric, UniSource and a host of smaller private utilities and cooperatives. But it would not apply to utilities classified as government corporations, notably the Salt River Project.


In fact, Johnson argues the failure of initiative organizers to point up that fact is one reason it should not go on the ballot.


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