I didn’t mean for General Assembly reports to be an everyday feature here on Blue Virginia. But I woke up today after the important speech on the House floor yesterday from Delegate Marcus Simon (D) about how the money in Virginia politics has killed public trust in our public servants, and listened to a House Finance Subcommittee meeting, and nothing could prove his point more.
First, the subcommittee voted to pass by indefinitely (“PBI,” aka kill) HB469, an electric vehicle tax credit from Delegate David Reid (D); HB172, a gun safe sales tax exemption from Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D); and HB256, a solar panel equipment tax credit and property tax exemption from Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D). Okay, so maybe being Republicans, they’re just naturally fiscally conservative and don’t support tax credits? That makes sense, right? And to the extent they still hold the majority, it’s to be expected that not a lot of (even very sensible) tax credits are going to pass through.
But then Delegate Terry Kilgore (R) presented HB665, to re-establish the expired coal tax credit. COAL. The credit expired most likely because the coal industry is dying a slow death, as it should, since coal energy is terrible for the environment, and we should be investing and incentivizing investment in cleaner, renewable energies, and training those workers in new technologies, not investing more in dirty coal.
Guess what? Those “fiscally conservative” Republicans (and one Democrat) on the subcommittee reported out (aka, moved forward with) the coal tax credit.
Now, I was listening pretty carefully yesterday when Delegate Simon spoke about legislators taking donations from the very industries they’re placed on committees to regulate. So, I went straight over to www.vpap.org and looked to see what I could learn.
Delegate Kilgore, the patron of the coal tax credit bill, has received:
- $173,391 from Dominion Energy
- $105,398 from Alpha Resources, a coal producer
- $37,630 from Appalachian Power
- $29,500 from Cumberland Resources Group, a coal producer
- $15,750 from the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance
- $8,200 from Allegheny Energy
- $7,750 from Spectra Energy Group
- $6,830 from Gobco LLC, a coal waste disposal company
- $6,250 from Wellmore Coal Corporation
- $6,000 from Thomas Farrell II, Dominion Energy CEO
And the members of the House Finance subcommittee who voted to report the coal tax credit bill received huge amounts of donations from coal and coal related companies and organizations.
Delegate Brenda Pogge (R), the Chair of the Subcommittee, has received:
- $10,000 from Dominion Energy
- $8,250 from Alpha Resources, coal producer
- $3,000 from the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance
Committee member Delegate Lee Ware (R) has received:
- $28,300 from Dominion Energy
- $12,750 from the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance
- $10,250 from Alpha Resources, coal producer
- $9,500 from Consol, coal producer
- $8,150 from Appalachian Power
Committee member Delegate Dave Orrock (R) has received:
- $18,750 from Dominion Energy
- $12,750 from Alpha Resources, coal producer
- $10,250 from the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance
- $4,750 from Appalachian Power
Committee member Delegate Cathy Byron (R) has received:
- $27,000 from Dominion Energy
- $15,350 from Appalachian Power
- $13,250 from Alpha Resources, coal producer
- $10,000 from the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance
- $3,250 from Consol, coal producer
Committee member Delegate Tim Hugo (R) has received:
- $71,519 from Dominion Energy
- $38,750 from Appalachian Power
- $13,250 from Alpha Resources, coal producer
- $8,250 from the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance
I would be happy to listen to sound economic arguments and environmental arguments about why a coal tax credit is or is not a good idea. There is no reason we shouldn’t be having such conversations, just like we should have them about electric car tax credits or any other issues. But I would not for one second trust people whose very positions in the legislature are due to donations from the coal industry to be honest brokers in such a conversation. And that’s precisely why our lax and shameful campaign finance system is such a detriment to good governance.
Finally, there was one more bill that was before the subcommittee. And dozens of women had traveled from all over the Commonwealth to participate in their government, to testify in favor of this bill, HB24 from Delegate Jennifer Boysko (D), to give a sales tax exemption on the purchase of menstrual products, the so-called Diginity Act.
These women had sat patiently for hours waiting to speak about this bill. The subcommittee however, was out of time–or, at least, had spent the technical amount of time allocated for this meeting (most committees regularly allow a meeting to extend beyond this time, especially to allow witnesses who have travelled to testify). And while still arguing about whether these women could be allowed to testify, multiple subcommittee members simply got up and left. So much for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people–so much for democracy.
Apparently Tampax and Kotex don’t donate enough money to the Delegates.