'A hot mess': Lt. Gov. Denny Heck blasts Dems over natural gas ban bill


A bill backed by majority Democrats in the Washington State Legislature that would impact natural gas service received an unexpected rebuke Thursday from Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, who as president of the Senate presides over parliamentary procedure as legislation is being debated. 

The original version of the House Bill 1589 essentially means Puget Sound Energy does not have to offer natural gas service to new and existing customers if it determines it is no longer financially beneficial for the company to do so. The Senate version of the bill in the form of Engross Substitute House Bill 1589, removes the ban on natural gas line hookups in new construction.

After intense debate on the measure Thursday on the Senate floor, Heck emerged to give his take on the bill.

“Our Legislature has some of the finest professional drafters anywhere and the following remarks have nothing to do with the legislative staff or their work," he said. “There is no other way of saying this clearly: the president is troubled by this legislation." 

The original bill said PSE can instead offer alternative options in place of natural gas, Heck noted.

"Right now, the company cannot do that under the current law, passed more than a century ago," he said.

Heck is not a fan of how the legislation came to be.

“The drafting and construction of this bill is very simply a hot mess," he said.

Courts looking at the drafting of the bill and the prohibitions contained in it would ask a simple question.

“Is the new bill such a complete act that the scope of the duties or rights created can be determined without referring to any other statute?” he asked, answering no. 

Heck went on to say, “There are multiple planning requirements. The president is troubled that the existing planning requirements will remain unamended in the various RCWs [Revised Code of Washington]."

“Is HB 1589 so complete such that one can determine the rights and duties so complete without referring to other statue?" he reiterated. "The answer is no.”

He added, "The president simply can not look at HB 1589 and know which plans to UTC [Utilities and Transportation Commission] are being given authority to consolidate.”

Heck concluded with some counsel to the Senate.

“The president advises those who wish to draft legislation to listen to the advice of legislative staff, and for these reasons the president finds that HB 1589 in its current form is in violation of Senate Rule 26 and is not properly before the Senate.”

Senate Rule 26 states, "No act shall ever be revised or amended by mere reference to its title, but the act revised or the section amended shall be set forth at full length."

Any redraft of the bill would need to be made before 5 p.m. on Friday, the last day to consider opposite house bills.