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Property right initiative qualifies - Measure 2nd to make November ballot

By Rachel La Courte
The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, WA — A property rights initiative has qualified for the November ballot, election officials said Thursday.

Initiative 933 would require state and local government agencies to either compensate private landowners for regulations that harm the value of private property, or waive the requirements.

It's aimed at land use rules adopted since 1996.

Some farmers say that without such a change, government rules will continue to unfairly remove valuable farms and ranches from production.

"We're looking forward to the voters telling the government that they need to slow down and work with people instead of running over their rights," said Dan Wood, spokesman for the Washington Farm Bureau , which is backing the I-933 campaign.

Different from Oregon

Oregon voters passed a similar measure in 2004, but I-933 differs in part because it does not affect land use and zoning in effect before 1996, Wood said.

"Ours is very limited," he said. "Everybody's rights are protected equally."

Last month, sponsors submitted more than 317,000 voter signatures for I-933, exceeding the 225,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, as well as the cushion that is required to cover duplicate or invalid signatures.

A check of 9,700 randomly selected voter signatures showed an invalidation rate of about 17.1 percent, much less than the error rate threshold of 29 percent that the office had calculated, election officials said.

Opponents of I-933 say the measure is an unnecessary gutting of important environmental rules.

"This initiative boils down to costing taxpayers billions of dollars and allowing irresponsible development in places that were previously protected," said Aisling Kerins, campaign manager for No on I-933.

Washington voters rejected a similar initiative, Referendum 48, in 1995.

Wood said there is a different environment now, and he predicted success.

"The problem has spread and it has gotten more intense," he said. "I don't think enough people had been impacted back in 1995.

I-933 is the second measure to qualify for the ballot.

On Wednesday, election officials announced that I-920, a measure to repeal the state's new estate tax, also secured a spot.

Secreterary of State Sam Reed's office is still verifying signatures on a measure that would force a renewable energy standard for large utilities.

Time Eyeman's third run at $30 car tabs is in danger after failing a preliminary check of its petition signatures.

Reed is now conducting a full count of Eyeman's petitions, which could take until September to complete.

Earlier this week, Gov. Chris Gregoire vowed to help defeat the estate tax and car tab initiatives if they make the ballot, as well as the property rights issue.

Gregoire said she sympathizes with the concerns behind the property rights measure and will work with the Legislature to find a solution, particularly for preserving farmland in Washington, but that the initiative "is poorly drafted, far too broad.



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