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Voters reject carbon fee initiative, approve grocery tax ban

2018 Vote: Fierce fight under way over I-1631, the carbon-fee initiative

Carbon Fee initiative fails

The fight over whether to make polluters pay for their carbon emissions is over. The initiative failed after more ballots were counted on Wednesday. The latest count: 56 percent No, 44 percent Yes.

Experts said Initiative 1631 would show that states can take climate action even if the Trump administration doesn't, and create momentum for other states. Voters roundly rejected a carbon tax two years ago. But a broad coalition of environmental, community, labor and other groups tried again with a new pollution charge — technically levied as a fee — and a spending plan to steer revenues toward projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The opposition campaign sponsored by the Western States Petroleum Association, an oil industry group, outspent carbon-fee supporters by roughly 2-to-1. The No on 1631 campaign spent about $30 million, or twice the $15 million supporters spent.

The election was marked by big industry spending on major statewide initiatives with oil companies breaking state spending records to try to defeat the proposed carbon pollution fee.

Opponents flooded mailboxes and ran TV ads warning of increased gasoline and energy costs while proponents, who included Seattle rapper Macklemore and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, urged voters to support clean energy and other projects.

Grocery sales tax initiative approved

Voters also approved a measure backed by the beverage industry that would block local governments from taxing soda and other groceries after more votes were counted on Wednesday.

As of 5 p.m., the vote was Yes: 55 percent and No: 45 percent.

Initiative 1634 will prohibit local governments from imposing new taxes on soda or grocery items.

The beverage industry targeted Washington state as part of a nationwide effort to stop the expansion of taxes on soda.

A campaign sponsored by the American Beverage Association spent more than $20 million on Initiative 1634, which would block local governments from imposing new taxes on soda or grocery items. The industry earlier won bans on new, local soda taxes in California, Arizona and Michigan.

The Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Inc. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. gave the bulk of money in support. Opponents raised about $33,000.

Under the measure, cities and counties in Washington would be prohibited from taxing soda or food products. The measure wouldn't prevent the state Legislature from doing so. Seattle's tax on soda and sugary beverages, approved last year, would remain in effect but couldn't be expanded.

Proponents said the tax hurts small businesses and working people. Opponents said it prevents local governments from raising money and allows corporate interests to create state policy.

Gun safety initiative approved

A measure tightening state gun laws including enhanced background checks for people buying semi-automatic rifles won. Initiative 1639 had 60 percent of the vote "Washington state made history by passing the most comprehensive gun violence prevention measure in state history," Stephen Paolini, campaign manager for Yes On 1639, said in a statement.

The measure would also increase the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, add a waiting period to get those weapons and add firearm storage provisions.

Police deadly force initiative approved

Voters approved a measure designed to make it easier to prosecute police for negligent shootings. Initiative 940 is designed to improve police training in de-escalation tactics and eliminate a requirement that prosecutors prove officers acted with malice to get a conviction in negligent shootings.

"We will not grow weak, we will not grow weary, said Katrina Johnson, the cousin of Charleena Lyles, who was fatally shot by a police officer. "We are here for the long haul and today we got it done. I-940, police accountability. Charleena your death was not in vain. Baby you can rest now."

The initiative's sponsor, De-Escalate Washington submitted I-940 to the Legislature early this year after collecting nearly 360,000 signatures. Lawmakers passed I-940 and a compromise version of the legislation preferred by lawmakers, activists and police groups. The state Supreme Court ruled that I-940 in its original form would go on the November ballot while the compromise would not.

Initiative sponsors have said they are focused on getting the measure passed and expect to work with police groups and others on compromise language.

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