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I-27 barred from the ballot after being shut down in court

Can safe injection sites really help Seattle's opioid crisis? (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

The lawsuit against I-27 has succeeded in court, blocking the initiative from making it to the February ballot.

RELATED: King County should have defended Initiative 27

A King County Superior Court’s conclusion states that “I-27 in its entirety extends beyond the scope of the local initiative power.” But Joshua Freed, who spearheaded the initiative effort, says the fight is not over and that his group will appeal the decision; all the way to the supreme court if necessary.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Freed said after hearing the decision. “It’s interesting, we elect these council members in Seattle and King County to represent the voice of the people … they have no interest in listening directly to the voice of the people. We live in a Democracy that is built upon ‘We the People’ that control government, and yet government in this case is trying to flip it back and not listen to the voice of the people.”

I-27 received nearly 70,000 signatures to get on the February ballot. It aimed to ban any safe injection sites in the county. Two such sites are proposed for King County — one in Seattle and another in the greater county area. But a lawsuit challenged whether I-27 fell within state initiative rules. The City of Seattle joined the lawsuit, going up against I-27 supporters. King County opted not to defend the initiative in court.

Monday afternoon, King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Alicea Galvan ruled that I-27 is invalid, null and void because it extends beyond the scope of local initiative power. She also barred King County from placing the initiative on the February ballot that it was expected to appear on, meaning voters will not have an opportunity to weigh in on the safe injection site issue.

“They ruled that it will not go to the February 13 ballot, of course a decision that we will move to appeal because we think that 70,000 people that signed on to the Initiative 27, and the 1.3 million people (in King County) have a right to vote,” Freed said. “We do live in a Democracy, and having seen those rights threatened for the people to participate in an elective process is quite concerning.”

According to the judge’s conclusion, I-27 runs afoul of a few state regulations.

Where a state law gives power to a municipality’s ‘legislative authority’ or ‘government body,’ through direct legislation through initiative or referendum cannot supplant, place conditions, or limit the legislative body’s exercise of that power … I-27 proposes to engage in the appropriations process through prohibition of funding and therefore impinges upon the legislative authority of the county.

The legislature adopted RCW Chapter 70 delegating the decision-making authority on public health to the Board of Health, the Local Health Officer, and the County Council … I-27 interferes with the duties and obligations of the Board and County Council by subjecting public health officials and the County Council to potential criminal and civil liability if they attempt to fulfill the mandates which have been placed upon them by statute. In this way, I-27 is in direct conflict with RCW Chapter 70. Local initiative cannot usurp state law.

I-27 proposed that no public funds could be spent on safe injection sites, and also proposed a civil liability for the county if it appropriated any funds for the sites. It also proposed civil and criminal penalties for public health officials and city and county officials if they operate an injection site.

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