At the outset, let me say I have no insider knowledge nor am I speaking for anyone other than myself. But as a past participant and keen observer of the Virginia legislative process, I’m hopeful that Governor Northam can get Medicaid expansion done this session, and it is in that spirit that I offer this suggestion.
I propose that Governor Northam inform Senators Frank Wagner, Tommy Norment and Dick Saslaw and Dominion’s CEO Tom Farrell that he’ll veto Dominion’s rate payer rip off bill (Part II) unless the Senate passes Medicaid expansion. What’s the connection between the two bills? Absolutely nothing, just like the original Dominion rate payer rip off bill, SB1349, passed in 2015, had nothing to do with climate change although that was the justification offered.
One of Dominion’s more clever and less savory approaches to legislation is to tie its anti-consumer bills to unrelated matters like climate protection and clean energy. In 2015, Dominion blamed President Obama’s Clean Power Plan as justification for ripping off its customers for at least $1 billion in overcharges. At the time the Dominion rate payer rip off bill passed there wasn’t even a final climate regulation or an estimate of the implementation costs.
Now in 2018, Dominion intends to pad its bottom line by tying another anti-consumer bill to “grid modernization”. It’s not clear why Governor Northam signed on early to this legislation, but if I were the Governor I’d be more than peeved at Dominion’s Tom Farrell, consummate Democratic insider and Dominion hack Eva Teig Hardy and Minority Leader Dick Saslaw for the bad press this bill has earned my Administration. As we learned, the bill that came out of a flawed “mitigation” process (to which key parties never signed off) would have charged rate payers twice for the same Dominion investments in renewables and grid upgrades with very limited oversight by the State Corporation Commission.
Some of the more egregious excesses of this legislation have been fixed but even as the bill goes to the Governor for his signature, Attorney General Mark Herring and the State Corporation Commission still view it as bad for Virginia’s electricity customers.
One of the architects of this Dominion deal is its Vice President for State and Electric Public Policy and super lobbyist William L. “Bill” Murray. Any bio of Bill Murray always touts his side gig as an expert in health care policy which would seem to be more than a sufficient nexus to condition signing the Dominion legislation with passage of Medicaid expansion by the Virginia Senate.
After all, Delegate Terry Kilgore has already hitched his coal company tax credit bill on to Medicaid expansion so why can’t Governor Ralph Northam tell Senators Wagner, Norment and Saslaw as well as Tom Farrell, Eva Teig Hardy and Bill Murray that their Dominion bill will only get signed if the Senate passes Medicaid expansion? Note that Majority Leader Senator Norment is the principal obstacle to the passage of Medicaid expansion.
On the plus side, if Governor Northam get Medicaid expansion passed, Dominion ratepayers and all Virginians would realize the benefits of Medicaid expansion funding that would help offset the drag on our economy of Dominion’s monopoly practices. And if the Senate fails to pass Medicaid expansion and the Dominion bill gets vetoed by Northam, then the whole process begins again in 2019.