This came to my attention from Gail Bartkovich, who was nice enough to pass this along from Delegate Addie Eckardt’s staff. There were three bills that Legislative Aide Kathleen Styskal wrote about in this release, I’m going to concentrate on two of them.
Delegate Eckardt has introduced HB1215 which would form a task force to study all task forces, commissions, temporary or ad hoc committees and panels that functioned over the last nine years. The bill is intended to determine the purpose; findings and effectiveness; the individual and combined costs and subsequent actions that may be attributable to the work of the above mentioned groups. Between 1998 and 2007, there were 172 task forces created and this number includes only those task forces that had a reporting requirement – those that do not have a reporting mandate are not currently tracked. The bill had a hearing in the Health and Government Operations Committee on March 12.
In the time since this update was written, the bill was killed in that committee. Apparently the majority party doesn’t like the idea of actually seeing what tangible results have come from all of the task forces that have been put into place over the last decade. I’d have to ask what they’re afraid of.
While HB1215 had no shortage of irony attached to it, I would have liked to have someone look at just what was being accomplished by an endless parade of task forces that do cost the state money – in most cases participants are reimbursed for travel expenses and the like. In looking at some of the bills she’s sponsored, I’d have to say that Addie generally is a stickler for accountability. Unfortunately, the majority on the Health and Government Operations Committee apparently doesn’t care quite as much for that sort of thing. It’s only our tax dollars.
HB608, the “Light Bulb Bill”, of which Delegate Eckardt is a co-sponsor, has passed the House with amendments. The bill would have required that the Public Service Commission may not approve any program or service for the use and conservation of energy that assesses a surcharge on the customer’s gas or electric bill without prior written consent of the customer. The amendments changed the bill so that electric and gas companies must provide prior notification to affected customers on future energy efficiency and conservation charges but removed the customer consent aspect of the bill.
This bill passed the House of Delegates 138-1, with Delegate Impallaria being the lone vote against it. I tend to agree with Rick on this, because by removing the language I’m quoting below (taken from the First Reading version), the bill’s intent was completely and irrevocably gutted:
THE COMMISSION MAY NOT APPROVE ANY PROGRAM OR SERVICE FOR THE USE AND CONSERVATION OF ENERGY THAT REQUIRES OR ALLOWS A GAS COMPANY OR AN ELECTRIC COMPANY TO PROVIDE, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE TO A GAS CUSTOMER OR AN ELECTRIC CUSTOMER FOR WHICH THE CUSTOMER WOULD BE ASSESSED A SURCHARGE ON THE CUSTOMER’S GAS BILL OR ELECTRIC BILL WITHOUT THE PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE CUSTOMER.
HB608 was a response to Allegheny Power’s decision earlier this year to send compact fluorescent light bulbs to all of its customers while adding a 96 cent per month surcharge to their 2008 electric bills to recoup the cost. As amended, the utilities would simply have to give a notice of future efforts. I get inserts in my electric bill each month and tend to read through them in a cursory manner, thus I feel pretty safe in saying that any notice like this will probably find file 13 in a hurry when it arrives in most households.
The original idea was quite sound and I think utilities may have found that an opt-in installment plan worked pretty well; unfortunately, someone on the Economic Matters Committee decided that allowing consumers a choice in the matter would give them way too much say in things and added this amendment which pulled the teeth out of the measure. Can’t have people determining for themselves whether they want to receive and pay extra for bulbs that are mostly made in China and possibly create a hazmat situation if they’re broken, can they?
On Sunday I’m going to have another article about a bill in the General Assembly that somehow escaped my notice and was brought to my attention by another e-mailer. That’s going to be a fun one to dissect too.