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Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

By Kerry Dougherty and originally published at Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited. Shared here by agreement with Bacon’s Rebellion

Look who’s crying now.

Virginia Democrats, who launched ugly attacks on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s religious beliefs in his second week in office and who spent the entire session bragging about how they were a “brick wall” blocking most of his initiatives, are suddenly bawling because the governor vetoed 26 bills.

Never mind that Youngkin also signed 702 bills and amended 114.

These are the same partisan hacks who blocked Andrew Wheeler’s appointment to serve as Virginia’s Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources because he’d been Donald Trump’s EPA chief. On top of that, these are the Democrats who shamelessly approved the appointments of soft-on-crime “bleeding hearts” to the last parole board and then watched as they began setting killers free. These vindictive lefties torpedoed four of Youngkin’s Parole Board appointments.

Looks like these arrogant politicians, who believed they’d never have to work with another Republican governor, expected Youngkin to simply roll over and rubber stamp redundant and bad bills.

There’s a new sheriff in Richmond and while he may be mild-mannered, Youngkin demonstrated this week that he knows how to punch back at the bullies in the General Assembly.

Among the bills he vetoed was one by Senator Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, that would have required prosecutors to aid lazy criminal defense attorneys by providing them with copies of subpoenas that are readily available in court clerk’s offices. Lawyers need the exercise. Go get them yourselves. The people don’t have to pay to do your work.

Here’s another example of a bill Youngkin vetoed.

The following was written by Steve Haner and initially published on Bacon’s Rebellion.

Reliance on the controlling phrase “in the public interest” helped get an energy bill vetoed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), bringing a rare call from a governor to maintain the independent oversight of the State Corporation Commission. Recent governors of both parties happily signed bills with the phrase into law over and over.

Senate Bill 347 was a pretty bad bill from the start. It applied to only one company, Dominion Energy Virginia. The company is already under orders from the General Assembly to stress and increase energy efficiency with its customers (often adding the costs onto the rest of us). But the bill went deep into the weeds calling for specific “energy efficiency savings targets for customers who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service,” according to the summary. Under its current management, Dominion just loves to mix identity politics with ways to make money for its shareholders.

Here’s what Youngkin put in his veto explanation:

“Although this legislation has the commendable goal of promoting energy efficiency, the requirements included in this legislation could, through an arbitrary declaration of the public interest, increase energy costs on Virginians. As a result, the Commonwealth’s energy policy moves further away from a cost-effective, all-of-the-above strategy with strong regulatory oversight administered by the SCC.”

Energy policy should be established by the General Assembly but not at the expense of consumer protection and strong regulatory oversight through the constitutionally-established SCC. Public interest declarations unnecessarily restrict the constitutional authority of the SCC and should be used rarely, if ever.

Since the 2007 legislation that ended Virginia’s path toward electric utility deregulation, the General Assembly has used (abused) the phrase “in the public interest” to impose its political will over the discretion of the independent SCC. In 2007 the beneficiary was the coal plant the Assembly ordered be approved for Southwest Virginia, the same coal plant that 15 years later is proving to be a financial white elephant.

Just about every time the Assembly has inserted the phrase, it has been to order the SCC to do something financially harmful to utility customers. In the case of Dominion’s pending offshore wind application, the Assembly not only declared it in the public interest but declared it in advance to be prudent and reasonable, which under no circumstances it actually is.

Unfortunately, legislation that would have restored the SCC’s authority in that instance didn’t escape the Virginia Senate to reach the Governor’s desk. But the Senate went for his bill 40-0, another dead giveaway the utility was all for it, and Youngkin zapped it. Perhaps the phrase “in the public interest” will disappear from future bills, at least for three more sessions.

That phrase was not used in another major energy bill that got the governor’s attention, this time with a series of amendments rather than a veto. When House Bill 558 was being debated, supporters over and over stressed that it preserved traditional SCC authority. Well, if that is their goal, they should support the amendments Youngkin has proposed. All help consumers.

House Bill 558 and its Senate companion create a regulatory structure for gas utilities to develop and distribute non-traditional forms of gas, so-called bio-gas, often from agricultural operations. Environmentalists fought it because, well, it is gas after all, and because it makes noises about reducing methane emissions but doesn’t really require any such reductions. This is correct.

The Democrats in both chambers who voted for this (and the Senate version had a Democratic sponsor, Scott Surovell) are Green New Deal hypocrites. During the session, only Virginia Mercury covered it, noting the irony. The bill deserves its own post, and there are other problems with it that Youngkin did not fix. I admit holding back because watching Democrats vote for it was so amusing.

Unfortunately, the governor’s amendments did not touch another element of the bill which has the General Assembly returning to an old, bad habit: allowing an enhanced profit margin, an extra 100 basis points of return on equity.

But Youngkin does oppose an effort in the bill to weaken SCC authority by adding a new “Societal Cost Test” as a measure of what is in the public interest. Adding that new test, totally subjective and focused on the claimed climate benefits, basically weakens reliance on the more traditional tests to protect consumers. The vote on this particular amendment later this month will be instructive, an acid test.

 

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