The following are updates on earlier Bacon’s Rebellion stories of mine.
Clean Virginia Files First Report
Clean Virginia Fund, the political action committee that is trying to buy legislators’ loyalty away from regulated utilities, has filed its first report with the State Board of Elections. Charlottesville financier and hedge fund magnate Michael D. Bills is the only donor, putting in $50,000. Two senators and nine delegates, all Democrats, accepted a total of $32,500. Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power donated a combined $175,000 during the same period so if this is really a bidding war, Clean Virginia has some catching up to do.
Hunton Andrews Kurth, the Richmond law and lobbying firm, is off to a slow start, giving only $23,000 on this report. The firm drew notice for saying it would not support legislators who refused donations from its utility client. Its largest check was to the Democratic Commonwealth Victory Fund, which supports both House and Senate candidates in that party. (Dominion Energy gave to that, too.)
Somehow I don’t think any of the legislators who are refusing corporate or utility dollars will refuse help from that party committee. The check was probably to attend the Democrat’s annual event at the Homestead, where I’m sure all had a nice chin wag over the bar or on the golf course.
Dominion Energy Doubles Down on T1 Rider Taxes
Responding to an adverse recommendation from a State Corporation Commission hearing examiner, Dominion Energy has filed comments asking the full commission to ignore her opinion and make the customers pay too much.
Its first and most important argument is that the commission doesn’t have the authority to exercise discretion over the future transmission charges under rate adjustment clause T1. It points to language in the 2007 statute that created this RAC and the whole system of RACs. In the case of transmission costs under T1 the language says that any bill from regional transmission entity PJM is presumed to be reasonable and prudent.
This isn’t about the taxes, it’s about that language. That “reasonable and prudent” presumption is even more frequent in the statute now, thanks to the 2018 legislation. This is once again proof that Dominion inserts that phrase (and it writes these bills, no legislator does) to override the judgement of the SCC. Those of us who worked on that 2007 statute never contemplated that Dominion would take advantage of that presumption to self-calculate its charge based on false information – in this case an erroneous tax rate.
If the SCC stands with its hearing examiner, expect the utility to take the battle back to the Virginia Supreme Court or back to its friendly legislators. Once again, as it has been for more than a decade, the only real issue is will the legislature listen to the SCC or let the utility make it own laws and rules.
The AG Giveth, the AG Taketh Away
Attorney General Mark Herring has notably been a bit less predictable than many previous AG’s on the question of who his client is, if the state law or regulatory position he would normally defend was highly unpopular with various interest groups.
He earned praise in many circles recently for deciding to have his staff defend certain abortion-related regulations, but now has decided to not let his staff join in the appeal of a recent decision on legislative districts and the Voting Rights Act. The Republican legislators seeking a delay on drawing a new map pending that appeal will need to fund their own legal efforts.
Political hypocrisy is always bad, but never worse than when the issue is redistricting. The requirements of the Voting Rights Act are complicated and shift like the sands of the Sahara. As I noted earlier, in 1991 we Republicans used it to our advantage to challenge the House plan, and over time it has provided benefit to the GOP. Now the Democrats have a leg up with this recent ruling which orders new districts likely to help their chances.
The advantage being sought was and is political, partisan and not really about race. There was no racial animus in 1991 and no racial animus in 2011 as districts were drawn to protect incumbents of both parties. (Years before, real racial animus was rampant.) The evidence in this case is clear that black legislators on the Democratic side were consulted about their districts and often accommodated, and I can offer personal testimony from 1991 that self-interest and self-protection was the number one motive of everybody on both sides.
The term “racial gerrymandering” could apply to a district plan intended to limit the opportunity of members of a racial minority to win elections. Wouldn’t it also apply, however, to a district plan intended to maximize that opportunity? The Voting Rights Act, enacted as a remedy to historical racism, requires a form of racial gerrymandering and this most recent ruling reaffirms that the map must be drawn to determine a certain outcome – uh, that is gerrymandering.
The first question in 1991, 2001 and 2011 was what must be done to comply with the Voting Rights Act and nobody knowingly breaks it anymore.
The recent statement from Governor Northam, who while a state senator I assume voted for this House map, was obviously timed to coordinate with Herring’s announcement. It was unfair but I guess standard fare. What the state has been ordered to do, and Northam and Herring are eager to do for political gain, is to replace one racially-driven plan with a slightly different one.There are currently no comments highlighted.