WV Citizen Action Group
Action Alert
April 1
 Alert Archive


Crossover Week
By Gary Zuckett, garyz@wvcag.org

This Wednesday, bills must be passed out of their house of origin to stay alive. As we wrote in last Friday’s update, several of our bills are on their way to make this legislative hurtle. The Clean Elections/Public Financing for Supreme Court bill that makes the 2012 pilot project permanent is one of these. A bicycle safety bill (HB3021) we’re working on with WV Connecting Communities is also on the move.

The Energy Efficiency bill did not make the grade. Last Friday the House Judiciary Committee failed to move the bill to the floor. The vote was an 11-11 tie when hands were counted and a majority was needed to pass. The “rest of the story” on this bill was that King Coal had decided that making power companies consider Efficiency and plan ahead for the least cost power production was anti-coal. See Stacy’s article for the sorry details.

On the Sunday Paper’s front page was an article by Ken Ward outlining another Efficiency fight – the sale of several WV based - but out-of-state owned - coal-fired power plants. Ken’s article quoted both Citizen Action and Energy Efficient WV in opposition to the corporate shell game proposal to dump these more expensive power generation facilities onto WV rate payers. Yes, our utilities currently purchase much of our power from them. No, we don’t need to own them to buy the power since it would increase rates significantly for the majority of WV power customers. We’ve filed at the WV Public Service Commission to intervene in both the AEP and First Energy filings to ask the question – are these transfers of ownership the best use of WV ratepayers money? Since WV is a regulated monopoly when it comes to utilities, the power companies must get permission to dump these “assets” on their WV affiliates and force us to pay off billions in inflated acquisition costs on our electric bills. No thanks!

Congress is in recess and our Representatives and Senators are back home. This is a good time to ring them up and let them know that you don’t want cuts to social programs like Headstart, Medicaid, Medicare and Pell Grants – but instead let’s make some measured drawdowns in Pentagon funding now that Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. Call Senator Manchin and tell him to repeal the Sequester on social programs but keep it for the Pentagon. Here’s a handy toll-free number that will connect you to his office – 1.888.872.1238

Thanks once more goes to those who have taken the time to send in a check in support of our work here at the Legislature. The drama ends at midnight on April 13th. So there is still time to get your contribution matched dollar for dollar by our cranky major donor! Sent them to 1500 Dixie St. Charleston, WV 25311.

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Bills to Expand Disclosure, Fill Vacancies in Elected Offices Advance
By Julie Archer, julie@wvcag.org

In addition to HB 2805, which would make the public financing a permanent part of WV Supreme Court elections, two other significant election reform bills have cleared the committee process in the house of origin.

SB 604 would restore various types of non-broadcast media – mass mailing, telephone banks and billboards – to the definition of “electioneering communication” in West Virginia’s disclosure law, which came in response to millions of dollars spent on negative political advertising during the state Supreme Court race in 2004.. The law includes a provision requiring disclosure of those who contribute to organizations that sponsor “electioneering communications” — political ads that mention a candidate and are released within a certain number of days before an election. In July 2011, a U.S. District Court judge struck down key provisions of the law, including the state’s attempt to apply disclosure to non-broadcast media, such as mass mailings and newspaper ads. However, the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed that West Virginia can constitutionally require disclosure of both broadcast and non-broadcast media, observing that “there is no reason why the public would not have [the same] interest in knowing the source of campaign-related spending . . . [in] print” as it does in broadcast ads. You can read more about the Fourth Circuit’s ruling here -- http://www.brennancenter.org/blog/fourth-circuit-upholds-most-challenged-w-va-disclosure-laws.

SB 527 would update the process by which vacancies in elected office are filled. The legislature has been kicking around ideas for how to deal with the issue since the death of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd triggered a special election in 2010, which was followed by a court ordered special election for Governor in 2011. SB 527 repeals provisions in state code created specially to deal with those vacancies and establishes a new process for how these situations, as well as vacancies for other elected offices will be handled in the future. The bill sets procedures and requirements for appointing and filling vacancies for various offices, and establishes timelines for when election must be held to fill those vacancies. The bill requires most elections to fill vacancies to be held in conjunction with regularly scheduled elections, but sets procedures for special filing periods and holding special elections that cannot be held with in the specified timeline to fill a vacancy for a particular office.

Both bills are on scheduled to be voted on by the Senate today (Monday). 

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By Norm Steenstra, norm@wvcag.org

Earlier in the session the House of Delegates voted 94-4 to strip individual cities and towns from passing gun purchase ordinances. The bill moved over to the senate for consideration and the dung hit the fan. Gun nut advocates flooded the senate switch board and emails demanding that the bill be acted upon at once. Threats were made, a pro-gun rally was staged and Senator Herb Snyder was told that “you won’t go home from Charleston.”

Keep in mind that the whole mantra of the right wing is advocating control except in cases where locals might do something that is controlling their issues. The four cities that have stronger local gun ordinances require longer waiting periods, back ground checks and prohibit multiple handgun sales. The ordinances do not address hunting rifles or for that matter so called assault weapons.

This week 3 senators took the lead in resisting gun-fanatics. Senate President Kessler, House Judiciary Chair, Cory Palumbo, and Government Organization Chair, Herb Snyder. All stood up to the pressure. Kessler was quoted as saying “not on my watch, not ever.” Chairman Palumbo who has an “A” rating from the NRA said that the legislature shouldn’t remove Charleston’s ability to choose its own rules against gun crime. “I think Charleston should be able to make that decision.” Chairman Snyder summarized the action of the pro-gun side “This is just plain ugly. This is the nastiest thing I’ve seen in 22 years of Public Service.”

Courage is not standard operation procedure at the legislature, but this session 7 legislators have demonstrated the courage to stand up to institutional bullying and deserve to have history preserve their effort. Thank you Kanawha Delegates Meesha Poore, Nancy Guthrie and Danny Wells. Thank you Delegate Stephen Skinner of Shepherdstown and Senators Kessler, Palumbo and Snyder. You inspire us all.

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Clean Elections, Fair Courts: Take Action to Make Public Financing a Permanent Part of WV Supreme Court Elections
By Julie Archer, julie@wvcag.org

In 2010, West Virginia made history with the passage of the WV Supreme Court Public Campaign Financing Pilot Project, followed by its success in the 2012 election.

The WV Legislature is currently considering whether to make public financing a permanent part of state Supreme Court elections.

This Wednesday, the full House of Delegates will vote on HB 2805, making the WV Supreme Court Public Financing Program permanent.

It is essential that judges be fair and impartial, with no possibility of influence by financial supporters.

You can help us continue to advance public financing of elections in West Virginia.

Please let your Delegate(s) know that public financing of judicial elections is vital to protecting the fairness and impartiality of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Urge them to support HB 2805.

You can find contact information for your Delegate(s) at: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/

Here’s an example of what you can say:

Dear Delegate ___________,

Please support of HB 2805, which would make permanent the successful program for public financing of state Supreme Court elections.

In response to scandals involving the state Supreme Court, the legislature established the public financing program to help restore confidence in our judiciary -- making us an example for the rest of the country. It is essential that judges be fair and impartial, with no possibility of influence by financial supporters. Making this program permanent will help ensure the fairness and impartiality of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

You can also show your support by signing our petition to the WV Legislature and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin:


Thank you for taking action in support of Clean Elections and Fair Courts.

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Energy Efficiency Bills Killed in Committee

By Stacy Gloss, stacy@wvcag.org
First, a heartfelt thank you for following House Bills 2210 and 2803 with us through the Legislative Session. If you did, thank you for contacting your delegates on the behalf of stronger energy efficiency in West Virginia – where WV ranks 49th in the nation in terms of energy efficiency initiatives; where our electricity rates have risen for AEP Appalachian Power customers 68% between 2000 and 2011, and FirstEnergy’s by 39%*; and where WV still has the 11th lowest electric rates in the country but the 26th highest utility bills. Energy Efficient West Virginia has fought and will continue to fight for common-sense policies and practices that will help businesses and residents get their electricity bills under control.

House Bill 2210 was a bill that would support energy efficiency resource standards for WV. House Bill 2803 was a bill that would require the Public Service Commission to routinely ask our regulated utility companies to submit Integrated Resource Plans to the PSC as a long range planning tool to plan for future electricity generation in the midst of a volatile energy market.
In meetings with members of the House Judiciary Committee we learned that there was too much opposition by Appalachian Power and First Energy to any requirement of meeting energy efficiency targets. House Bill 2210 was dead on arrival. Integrated Resource Planning took a different path. As written the IRP bill was more palatable to our supporting delegates as it codified a practice the industry has said they already do. If the electricity utility industry has been asked to submit plans to the PSC in certain cases, it should be no problem for the utilities to include energy efficiency in their planning analysis and submit their plans to the PSC for review on a consistent basis every two years. The legislature makes policy decisions for the PSC and it is within the legislature’s ability to set an IRP policy which 34 states in the US already use in some form. Integrated Resource Planning was introduced on Friday afternoon by committee substitute in the House Judiciary Committee.

Though members of Energy Efficient West Virginia went into the meeting feeling confident that the majority of the committee would vote for the bill, we left the committee stunned and disappointed. The committee meeting was run mostly by Del. Tim Manchin, Vice Chair of the Committee while it was evident that Chairman Tim Miley and the Committee’s Attorney were involved in closed-doors negotiations with members of the coal lobby. When our bill was finally introduced by the Committee’s attorney, it was introduced as an environmental bill defined as taking into consideration the environmental impacts of coal fired and natural gas industry on electricity. This was going about as wrong as it could have. Integrated Resource Planning is a planning tool for the PSC, it is not an environmental bill. Members of the committee asked questions demonstrating clearly they did not understand. Questions included "will this bill require the utilities to monitor peoples' energy consumption?" and "isn't this going to require them to look at the environmental impacts of coal generation?" and "are there other states that have coal-fired electricity with integrated resource planning?" Nobody called on the experts in the room - Byron Harris, Director of the Consumer Advocates Division of the PSC or Ryan Palmer, one of three Commissioners on the PSC.

Before we could blink the Integrated Resource Planning Bill was put to a vote despite misconceptions about the bill. About half the voices in the room voted “I” and half yelled “No”. So, the delegates had to raise their hands instead. It was an 11-11 tie. After the tie, no delegates requested further clarifications on the bill. The democrats who voted against it were Marcum (D-Marcum), Ferro (D-Marshall), and Moore (D-McDowell). I was the most shocked by Del. Cliff Moore’s vote, an original co-sponsor of the Integrated Resource Planning Bill. His vote was the difference between the bill passing and failing to pass. As I reflect, I keep coming back to feeling that our bill had gotten wrapped up in the back-room coal lobby negotiations. It seems the WV Legislature is divided between three parties, not two - the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the Coal Party. Misinformation about our bill branded it as an environmental bill that would threaten coal. IRP would do no such thing. It is sad, because Integrated Resource Planning would ultimately provide the PSC with a planning tool that in the long term would benefit families and businesses struggling across West Virginia including those in our poorest counties in the Southern Coalfields of WV.

*March 30, 2013, Ken Ward Jr. “Sales of Coal Plants Raise Concerns” accessed http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201303300083

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