by Morris Meyer
So I went to Richmond and testified on 5 bills yesterday. It was a great experience, but I also saw the “Virginia Way” in action — and it really wasn’t pretty.
I testified for Del. Hala Ayala on her wage transparency bill. Spoke about how NeXT Computer had an open salary information policy and about the excellent women engineers who worked there, like Kate Smith and Cat Mikkelsen. Based on the well-coifed Chamber of Commerce robot, you would have thought having men and women know their salaries in the workplace was akin to anarchy, or a meltdown in the social order.
I testified for Del. Lee Carter on his net neutrality bill. It got a hearing and was shot down. The pushback from the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association (VCTA) and others was that unless Internet net service providers are allowed to overcharge, that rural broadband will never be serviced. Del. Mark Keam, it would be good to have a progressive response to that.
Got to watch Del. Jennifer Carroll-Foy see her coal ash bill “continued” until next year, even though she ran the traps with Dominion prior and had a good set of testimony.
I then testified on Del. Todd Pillion’s intra-county hydropower revenue sharing bill. Yes, this leftist testified for a Republican bill, and I called it innovative. I follow energy policy and this one was totally new to me. This bill was reported out of subcommittee, on a 9-0 vote, with substitute.
I then testified on Del. Danica Roem’s intervenor compensation bill, which would have used $300,000 in already allocated State Corporation Commission (SCC) funds to pay for lawyers to travel to Richmond and to testify before the SCC. Republican Del. Margaret Ransone claimed it would be a slush funds for lawyers to get rich, and Republican Del. Tim Hugo said he was dreaming about becoming a lawyer in his next life. Democrat Donte Tanner can help with that in 2019 when he defeates Del. Hugo. But no, leveling the playing field was not happening today.
Finally it was time to testify for our Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) legislation. Del. Alfonso Lopez introduced (thanks!) to set the scope of the legislation. I helped add to the testimony in support. We had a few other groups support. Dominion was represented by its lobbyist, Bill Murray, who opposed the bill (although he was very helpful with the phrase: “municipalities can already do this”). So, my CCA friends Mike Sandler, Silvia Zinetti and Paul Fenn, we tried, but unfortunately, the bill was “passed by indefinitely” (aka, killed) on a 6-2, party-line vote. Fortunately, it’s already the law in Virginia that, after voting on a referendum, municipalities can aggregate from 5 MW up to 100 MW of 100% renewable power. We want to reach out to town and city councils across Virginia.
Again, I saw the “Virginia Way” up close yesterday and it was most definitely not pretty. Among other things, it’s filled with entrenched Republicans, a few Democrats, and business lobbyists doing corporations’ bidding and pushing the will of the people out of the General Assembly. Fortunately, we have a chance in 2019 to turn the page, towards a New Virginia Way that will turn the current, corporate-ruled General Assembly into the People’s House for a change!