Everyone likes it when they flip on the light switch and the room lights up. Most everyone is unhappy when their electric bill arrives after a particularly hot or cold month. It is a love-hate relationship with consumers. This is an important issue that the General Assembly is dealing with this session.
Historically, the State Corporation Commission sets the rates that Dominion charges customers. In so doing, it provides a profit that is fair and responsible.
Every couple of years they audit the books, looking back to determine if they have made too much or not enough. They can then order them to refund customers or allow an increase in rates moving forward.
The General Assembly has struggled about the best way to protect consumers while understanding the need of electricity for consumers. We tried to bring competition to the state; that did not work. There was little interest by consumers or independent power companies.
A couple of years ago with concerns about the federal government regulators, we negotiated with the companies to lock in current rates for several years as they started making plans to close coal power plants to meet expected federal regulations.
After the 2016 elections, the worst regulations were withdrawn. Therefore, the question this year is how do we step back from the action of several years ago?
Meanwhile, natural gas prices dropped, requiring rebates to consumers. After negotiation, the question was how much should be a direct rebate and how much could be used to modernize equipment. We tried to find the right balance.
Mixed into the equation was the issue of coal ash that has been in the ground for decades. Some wanted all of this dug out and transported to lined landfills that would cost billions of dollars to be paid for in your future electric bills.
Most disruptive issue of the session
Last Friday the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment came to the Rules Committee. The group that came in support of the resolution was the most disruptive of any I have seen during any session in the years I have served in Richmond.
I appreciate their passion, but it is always important to be considerate if there is truly going to be dialogue.
No matter the merits of the issue, the ERA was not properly before the General Assembly.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that because the separate state ratifications had not been received within the required number of years, it had expired.
According to the Archivist of the United States, the Equal Rights Amendment is not currently pending before the states, but it is categorized as a failed amendment. The Archivist, David Ferriero, was appointed by former President Obama.
Consistent with longstanding practice and policy, the Senate Committee on Rules voted not to advance this resolution. It did so because the Virginia General Assembly has neither the power nor the authority to approve an amendment to the United States Constitution that is not currently pending before the states.
No state legislature has the power to ratify an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that is not currently pending before the states since it was ruled as failed of adoption.
The only way we can consider ratification is if it passes a two-thirds vote of both houses in Congress and is forwarded to the states for ratification. As state lawmakers, we have neither the power nor the authority to initiate this process.