Retiring state Senator Frank Wagner gets appointed to some job by Governor Ralph Northam Friday and the headline on Blue Virginia labels him a “Dominion tool.” But has the other legislator being rewarded with a full-time job, Delegate Mathew James, cast any votes against the state’s favorite political whipping boy?
James being a Democrat, of course, nobody sought to look. The political assault on Dominion is carefully framed away from actual roll call votes, because the truth is plenty of members of both parties have loyally supported Dominion Energy Virginia with votes “on the board.” James is among them.
Each voter must decide whether or not loyal support for Dominion’s efforts to enrich its stockholders at their expense matters. It is up to each campaign against one of those incumbents to seek a way to make the voters care. The data is out there but it is dry, complicated, dare one say boring. Having spent a year digging into State Corporation Commission matters in depth, boring is a fair word usually.
That’s probably why the shallow and banal approach pushed by Clean Virginia is getting more attention. Now that its contribution list is growing, the partisan pattern is clear. Wake me when they actually support a) a Democrat primary challenger to one of the incumbent “Dominion tools” in that party or b) one of the small group of Republicans who have routinely voted against Dominion and in favor of its ratepayers. Until it gives money against Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw in his primary, don’t take Clean Virginia seriously.
All the stories about all the ways the General Assembly has tied the SCC’s hands to the detriment of consumers, and how much it costs them, mean nothing unless the voters get fired up and press their incumbents for answers.
I’m not going to do the research for the campaigns. But I have identified and linked below a small group of clear votes, situations where the legislators were hearing from vocal opponents warning that a bill was truly obnoxious. I included one key floor amendment vote, the only one with a partisan pattern.
Here is the honor roll of active legislators who voted right on them all. Don’t blink because it goes by fast. Delegates Alphonso Lopez (D), Sam Rasoul (D), Lee Ware (R) and Tony Wilt (R). Also, Senators Creigh Deeds and Chap Petersen, both Democrats. There are others more recently elected who have been steadfast for the consumers so far.
Sixteen of the 38 sitting senators running this fall cast three out of three votes for Dominion’s stockholders, five of them Democrats. Fourteen of the 91 delegates seeking election to House or Senate this fall cast four out of four for the stockholders, all Republicans in this case. But plenty of Democrats and Republicans had three out of four, many of the Democrats only voting on the right side on a single contested amendment. That’s the situation with James.
Following are the four House and three Senate roll calls in question. Each of these bills in my opinion fleeced Dominion’s customers, even after that successful floor amendment improved one of them a bit.
First up, Delegate David Toscano’s successful floor amendment to House Bill 1588, the Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act, eliminating the well-named “double dip” provision allowing Dominion to be paid twice. Everybody who wasn’t a shill for Dominion saw what this was, yet it was still a divided roll call, and one of the few with a strong partisan tilt. Most House Republicans voted wrong. It was the worst vote I’ve seen them take as a bloc in four decades.
A few moments later the same issue was voted on again, and the Republicans switched their votes, but too late. The first roll call is the only one that counted.
Toscano’s amendment was only put to a vote in the House and here is the roll call. Only on this one is “yea” the pro-consumer vote. It was actually taken on the House version of the bill, but the Senate also saw the light and the double-dip disappeared from its version.
Second, examine the final votes on that bill (it was the Senate Bill 966 that passed in the end). Here is the House final roll call and here is the Senate final roll call. It had strong bi-partisan support, clearly.
Third on the list is the famous and misnamed “Rate Freeze” bill of 2015, Senate Bill 1349, which effectively ended real regulation of the monopoly electricity utilities and replaced it with legislative control. It locked in as yet uncounted excess profits for the utility using the bogus threat of pending federal CO2 regulations, which posed little real threat to ratepayers. You can find the House vote here and the Senate vote here.
Finally, we turn to a lesser-known 2014 issue, this bill allowing Dominion to collect hundreds of millions of dollars for its spending on the still-up-in-the air North Anna 3 nuclear plant. Under traditional regulation the utility would carry the costs until a proposed project is built and operating, but this bill charged ratepayers in advance for a ghost plant which may never appear. The real purpose of the bill was to tilt the accounting on the pending 2015 rate case. The House vote on Senate Bill 459 is here and the Senate vote here.
There was a problematic bill in 2013, as well, changing accounting rules on rate cases in favor of the utility and against the ratepayer. But because it was negotiated in secret, blessed by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and introduced late, it drew little opposition. It was the “wake-up” call about Dominion’s intentions and tactics and the real struggle started in 2014.There are currently no comments highlighted.