From the Virginia Sierra Club (I'd just add that Dominion isn't just "trying to buy the VA General Assembly," it already has!):
The greed of Dominion Virginia Power knows no bounds. Will the General Assembly give Dominion what it wants in an election year with Dominion dangling up to a million dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans and Democrats alike?
Right now Dominion has a bill in the legislature (SB1349 - Senator Frank Wagner) to prohibit review of its overcharges by the State Corporation Commission and to allow the company to keep those overcharges that in the past have been refunded to customers.
Shamelessly, Dominion is using the EPA's climate action, the Clean Power Plan, as their excuse for this power grab. Dominion is telling legislators that the costs of the EPA's climate plan will be very high, but that Dominion is willing to absorb those costs if the legislators will just freeze their rates and block the State corporation Commission from reviewing them. The problem is that Dominion is on track to score $280 million in excess profits for this past year alone.
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said doing nothing was not an option.
"I will vote to move it along, but I would just say this has a long way to go. I'm somewhat concerned about not having this biennial review," he said. And turning to Dominion officials in the hearing room, he said: "You might want to answer everything you heard here today from people who have a different perspective, on a point-by-point basis."
Yeah, take that -- happy to exempt the books of a monopoly chartered as a public utility from public scrutiny -- but you "might want to" actually respond to what other people say about you! I'll bet that hurt! (But keep those donations coming, please...)
Kudos to Attorney General Mark Herring, one of the few Democrats in the Commonwealth with the cojones to challenge Dominion's power play. Governor Terry McAuliffe, who has not taken a stand on the issue, needs to step up and follow Herring's lead if he wants to be considered leader of the state.
And it's time for Democrats to stop allowing Saslaw to embarrass us, and finally replace him with a Senate leader who proudly upholds progressive values, and puts the people before the power companies.
Many recent news reports have trumpeted the dismissal of a raft of gun violence prevention legislation as a "Victory for Gun Rights." Despite the fact that gun's don't actually have any rights, I would like to enumerate, for those not present at the General Assembly, a representative sample of exactly which "rights" were victorious as a result of these actions. Taking just the 12 bills that were dismissed last night, in House Militia, Police and Public Safety, as an example,
The following "rights" remain intact - with the demise of the bill attempting to repeal those "rights" listed, along with the Patron's name:
HB2085 (Murphy) - Addressed the "right" of convicted violent abusers to maintain access to the very firearms that they may have been using to terrorize or dominate their family members. This bill would have temporarily removed that right and subsequently allowed the abuser to restore their rights - even to remove the current lifetime prohibition imposed by Federal Law! (Another case of, Fire, Ready, Aim, by the gun lobby working against their own interests - however, that is their "right".) In a surprise move, the subcommittee failed to accept a proposed substitute bill from the patron, due to the lack of a second. This was the first time I had seen that delicate maneuver in 8 years of watching sausage made!
HB2232 (Surovell) - Attempted to restrict the "right" for people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms, due to serious mental illness (think Cho), to be able to purchase, transport and possess ammunition. Presumably for the firearms that they are prevented from purchasing, transporting or possessing. ("Bullets don't kill people, empty firearms kill people")
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, January 31. Also see the weekly address, in which President Obama talks about "the progress our economy has made, laying a foundation for a future that prioritizes middle-class economics." Oh, and ditching the idiotic "sequestration."
This is a huge mistake and an enormous missed opportunity for Virginia. As always, thanks a lot Republicans!
Eight state and national environmental groups expressed their disappointment with the vote late this afternoon by the Virginia Senate Agriculture Committee to reject Senator Donald McEachin's Virginia Coastal Protection Act. Here's their statement:
"By rejecting the Virginia Coastal Protection Act (VCPA), the Committee failed to move our economy forward and begin the necessary work to work with Virginia's coastal communities to prepare for rising sea levels linked to climate change.
Senator McEachin, and those who voted for his bill, know that governing is about solutions, which is why Senator McEachin had developed this cost effective plan for addressing coastal flooding, lowering electric bills and meeting the goals of the Clean Power Plan. But the majority rejected this bi-partisan approach.
The House is still considering a companion version of the bill, which is being carried by Delegate Villanueva. Both versions would allow Virginia to compete with our mid-Atlantic neighbors who have created 290,000 renewable and energy efficiency jobs.
In the future, these Senators will again have to decide if they will continue to be deniers who rely on the oldest and dirtiest sources of power or if they want to look forward to the jobs created by investments in wind, solar and energy efficiency.
Virginia is already 80% of the way toward meeting its Clean Power Plan goal with steps the utilities were planning on taking anyway. The VCPA would have easily and efficiently helped us get the rest of the way there. It is a shame that they didn't do the right thing."
-Chesapeake Climate Action Network
-Virginia Conservation Network
-Virginia Sierra Club
-Southern Environmental Law Center
-Virginia League of Conservation Voters
-NextGen Climate America
Serious question: is the "convention wisdom" by the inside-the-Beltway, "elite" media and political pundits EVER right? Check out this screen shot and see for yourself how "everyone" was expecting Romney to run, and how he's...yep, NOT running. Nice going, political "analysts!" Of course, these are some of the same people who also said Jim Webb could never beat George Allen, that Hillary Clinton was a lock for the nomination in 2008, that Barack Obama was toast in 2012 due to the unemployment rate or whatever, that Romney was actually leading that election in October 2012, you name it. The question is, why does anyone listen to these people?
As an environmentalist concerned with climate change, I have changed my lightbulbs, bought smart thermostats for myself and parents, and have even bought an electric car. After flying to Cancun on vacation, I should be purchasing offsets for the carbon burned on the flight, but this is the sort of detail that even I overlook. Individual actions are almost quaint efforts to fight climate change, but large scale signals must be brought into our energy system to motivate purchasing decisions towards a cleaner system.
Today's article by Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, titled "The climate debate is brutal and dysfunctional, but there's still a way out" talks about just such a signal; one that both conservatives and liberals can embrace. He points to a "carbon tax that returns all the revenue from the tax to citizens, rather than using any of it for new government programs".
There are precedents for just such an arrangement in use already with the Alaska Energy Fund, which distributes oil revenues to Alaskans and what British Columbia has done with a carbon tax that has reduced its citizens' overall taxes.
A price on carbon - irrespective of the transferred money puts carbon decisions all across the economy on the bottom lines of businesses, incentivizing them to avoid this cost through replacement (solar / wind for electric companies) and energy efficiency in other smaller firms.
Want less of something - tax it. The straight through rebate makes it a wash for end consumers of energy but putting it on balance sheets brings business intelligence and creativity to bear to avoid it.
On the consumer angle slightly higher energy prices will incentivize consumers to make more efficient choices, invest in tightening their homes, cutting out superfluous trips, carpool, switch light bulbs which they will be able to afford with their dividend from the energy fund.
Given that we have already seen an example of a carbon tax enacted and repealed in Australia, it behooves us to look at the disbursement mechanism as a way to give the recipients ownership in the politics of a carbon energy fund.
Check out Del. David Toscano's excellent speech yesterday on Virginia's utterly wasteful coal tax credits (aka, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare on a massive scale) and the brain-dead rhetoric about a supposed "war on coal." Next time you hear Republicans and fossil fuel industry flacks blabbering on about the "free market," "Obama's war on coal," and other nonsense, just tell them to watch this speech.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House:
I listened carefully yesterday as the gentleman from Salem detailed the shuttering of the corporate offices of Norfolk Southern in Roanoke. This is an important issue to him and everyone in his community. Any jobs lost in a community have a great impact. Let me be perfectly clear. No one can be pleased with this decision. But let us not make more of this than it is. This is not a decision about coal and does not involve the so called "war on coal." It is more about economics and the private decision of a private corporation.
Just two days ago, CNBC reported that Norfolk Southern was bullish about the United States economy. According to this report, Norfolk Southern believes their profits will be boosted in 2015 because the U.S. economy is improving. As its CEO said, "we feel good about the state of the economy." There was nothing about coal in this announcement. And the letter from Norfolk Southern announcing their corporate restructuring said it was designed to "foster department synergies" and "streamline management." There was nothing in this letter about coal.
It is interesting, then, that as soon as the announcement of the Norfolk Southern decision hit, Congressional Republicans Morgan Griffith and Robert Goodlatte immediately began referring to this as a by-product of the so called "war on coal." The talking heads were out with a vengeance. But is there really a war on coal?
If government has done nothing wrong, then it has nothing to fear from the exposure of its practices. The same applies to politicians.
The Virginia Senate must regret allowing debates to be recorded. Video recording, and especially making it possible to disseminate those recordings (hello, Facebook, who knew it would ever be useful for anything except ogling cats and bragging about your grandkids?) makes it harder to lie and get away with it
No wonder the General Assembly is afraid.
This particular bill (SB 1060), sponsored by Republican Mark Obenshain, is designed to restrict primary voting to the party faithful. Even the conservative Virginia blogosphere admits this, and in the case of The Virginia Conservative actively opposes it.
Republican "voting integrity" is always about restricting the vote to the party faithful, not be gaining more faithful, perhaps by promoting policies that benefit all citizens of the Commonwealth, but by disenfranchising everyone else.
State Senator Chap Peterson called him out on it. When caught, Obenshain tried to lie his way out of it, to the effect that he knew what the bill would do and a snide aside that this wasn't his "first time at the rodeo."
Indeed, it is not. But first, a little background.
If there's anybody government needs to keep an eye on, it's a MONOPOLY. But through one of the big loopholes in our system of government, the monopolies that we call utilities get to shovel the money they make from their non-competitive positions into the offices of politicians who are supposed to be regulating them.
The predictable result is these politicians giving the utilities pretty much anything they ask for. But every once in a while, they get too greedy and go too far - and will find the public coming after them with pitchforks.
A bill filed by Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) would [...] free Dominion from regular financial audits conducted by the State Corporation Commission, which oversees utility rates in Virginia.
We're talking here about legislation to block the state of Virginia from financial oversight of its 8th largest company. Legislation that Sen. Wagner actually admitted was drafted by...Dominion.
The fox guarding the henhouse? No, more like the fox taking over the whole freaking Department of Henhouses.
If you're sick and tired of the political tools down in Richmond acting like lobbyists for Dominion rather than doing their job to regulate it, let them know ASAP. Contact your Delegate (find them here) and your Senator (find them here).
And contact Dominion too, especially if you're a customer, to let them know that you won't stand for this powerful monopoly trying to shield itself from public scrutiny. You can send them a tweet at @DomVaPower or post to their Facebook page.
We are the citizens of a democracy, not corporate vassals. Businesses certainly have a role in our society, but is the role of an actor, not that of our ruler. When companies like Dominion go too far, they need to hear from the public, loud and clear. Otherwise, they will keep going until their power over us is absolute. Don't stand for it - fight them while we still have the power to fight.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, January 29. As for the graphic, it's yet more evidence of the harm that Chuckie Todd and all the other corporate, right-wing "useful idiots" on Sunday morning's blatherfest do to America and the world.
The Democrats' 2014 election debacle left no room for doubt: Something is seriously wrong with this Democratic Party. Consider this:
* In the 2013-4 Congress, Republicans violated fundamental norms of American democracy, deliberately choosing to keep government from addressing the nation's pressing problems, showing an utter lack of concern for serving the public good.
* After this travesty took place in plain sight for nearly two years, the American electorate rewarded the Republicans by handing them even more power.
*Democrats coasted into electoral disaster without even trying to focus attention on the Republicans' unprecedented abuse of the system our Founders gave us.
Sure, there's plenty of shame to go around- every major component of the American body politic is implicated here.
The Republicans' conduct has been awful, of course, but there's no point dwelling on what this party has become. It has been well over a decade since that Party abandoned the integrity and decency of Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.
The Republicans disabled our government right out in the open: making this past Congress the least productive in history; passing bills that they knew had zero chance of being enacted; focusing on provocative but useless gestures such as voting more than 50 times to repeal the health care law; refusing to bring to the House floor an immigration bill that had passed the Senate by more than 2 to 1; never proposing serious solutions of their own.
But apparently voters needed help to see how seriously the conduct of the Republicans had violated this nation's basic democratic values. Where could they get that help?
Just a day after the Washington Post reported the Koch brothers' plan for billionaires to buy our democracy, this vote today in Virginia's State Senate - killing our state's utterly pathetic, measly incentives for small donations to political campaigns without replacing it with anything - is so opposite of the direction we need to be going, it's breathtaking. Now, clearly, the current tax credit for political donations is completely pathetic, inadequate, etc. But that doesn't mean we should KILL it, for god's sake; it means we should massively STRENGTHEN it. As this study on Matching Political Contributions explains, for instance:
The way forward requires an overhaul of public financing that spurs greater participation by the public at large.
Specifically, the answer lies in a system that gives a multiple match to donor contributions. Rather than continuing to give each candidate a flat grant of $100,000, for example, public financing systems should give six-to-one multiple matching funds on the first $200 of a contribution. This would make a $200 contribution worth $1400 to a candidate.
Multiple matching funds reflect a philosophical shift about the role of money in politics. Money is not an "evil," but should be embraced as a tool to make government accountable to more people. Public financing should not "level the playing field" among candidates, but should reward candidates who mobilize more supporters. Reformers need to spend less energy on "getting big money out of campaigns" and more on "getting the people back in" to those very same campaigns.
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