Monday, August 27, 2018

BREAKING: Judge Denies APS-Backed Challenge To Clean Energy Signatures; On To The Supreme Court (READ Opinion)

(UPDATE, 4:45pm: Arizonans for Affordable Energy confirms that it will appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. Spokesman Matthew Benson acknowledges that it is "disappointing", but says today's decision "does not alter our belief" that not enough valid signatures were filed. However, his final comment lacks some of the previous certitude: " is only prudent to be certain the initiative has met the bare standards necessary to be on the ballot.” Full statement at bottom of article. )

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley today denied an effort by an APS-backed effort - along with the Chamber of Commerce and some lawmakers - to knock the Clean Energy initiative off of the November ballot. An APS representative has already indicated that an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court is coming.

(The 33 page ruling is published in full below.)

After a five-day trial, Judge Kiley found that most of the challenges by Arizonans for Affordable Energy were not proven and/or appropriate. The group had claimed that only 22% of the submitted signatures should be considered valid, which would have left Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona considerably short of the 225k signature threshold.

During the trial, Kiley did throw out the 40k+ (otherwise-valid) signatures gathered by paid circulators who did not show up for the trial after being subpoenaed, and he did strike approximately 79k challenged signatures for other reasons. The Judge did not give a final hard figure after taking those into consideration, as well as the high validity rate found by County Recorders in their statutorily-mandated 5% sample.

However, he did explicitly deny two allegations that had been highly touted by AAE - that the circulators had not been inappropriately-paid based on their signature output (the Legislature banned that following the minimum wage initiative in 2016) and that the Committee's internal notes that only 47.28% of the signatures that they were about to turn in indictated that they should not have been permitted to submit all of their signatures.

The Clean Energy Committee - the ballot measure will be labeled as Proposition 127 - celebrated the verdict in what they called a "desperate lawsuit...that demonstrated the length that APS will go to stop voters from having their say on a 50% renewable energy standard by the year 2030."

Spokesman DJ Quinlan told Arizona's Politics that he expects an appeal and that "the original contention of the lawsuit was that nearly 75% of our signatures were invalid. They were clearly just lying about that."

Arizonans for Affordable Energy has not yet responded to our requests, but APS lobbyist Chad Guzman tweeted that an appeal is imminent.

Full Benson Statement: “While disappointing, today’s court decision does not alter our belief and that of plaintiffs that the ‘Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona’ initiative failed to collect the minimum number of valid signatures necessary to qualify for the November ballot. In fact, the initiative campaign admitted as much in the under-oath testimony of its campaign manager and via internal campaign documents revealing the campaign itself believed it had fallen short of the 225,963-signature ballot threshold mandated by the state. Plaintiffs are preparing an immediate appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

“Proposition 127 would fundamentally alter the Arizona Constitution and implement costly new regulations to raise electric rates for Arizona families and businesses. Before we proceed any further down this path, it is only prudent to be certain the initiative has met the bare standards necessary to be on the ballot.”

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