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This week from Charleston

By Staff | Feb 6, 2015

We are now three weeks in to the Legislative session and my days are filled with committee meetings and floor sessions. While I am more than willing to give the new majority the benefit of the doubt, the first bill passed out of the House of Delegates may indicate where this legislature is heading.

The first bill passed was HB 2001, which repeals 2009’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Act which has been inaccurately labeled “cap and trade.” This repeal bill purportedly helps the coal industry, but the testimony in committee showed fairly conclusively that the repeal would do nothing and have no impact. What the bill did do, at least initially, was ban solar energy by preventing what is commonly called “net metering.” Net metering allows solar producers to feed electricity into the grid and receive credit for their production back towards their own bill. The repeal puts us on the path to completely ignoring our need to diversify our energy portfolio in West Virginia. The Minority Leader requested an economic impact statement on the repeal bill, but that request was rejected by the new Speaker of the House. Incidentally, the first action of the House this year was to change the rules to empower the Speaker to obtain economic impact studies on potential legislation. This bill would have been an appropriate place to try the rule out. I voted against the repeal of the Act. My Jefferson County colleagues Upson and Espinosa voted for the repeal.

Because the repeal bill was flawed, it had to be amended to leave net metering in. Even then, it was then necessary to generate a separate bill (which I co-sponsored) to put the definition of net metering back into the code. Unfortunately, this new bill HB 2201 was then amended to change the definition of net metering in ways that may hurt Solar Holler, the organization that coordinated the installation of solar panels at the Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Public Library. HB 2201 has not yet passed out of the Senate.

One of the most absurd bills introduced this session (so far) would make it a crime for teachers to discuss “social problems, global economics, foreign affairs, the United Nations, world government, socialism or communism,” before teaching about American history. How the history of the U.S. could be taught without teaching these topics, I do not know. This bill, sponsored by Berkeley County’s John Overington, has been reported by national news outlets and has made West Virginia once again the butt of many jokes. I do not think that criminalizing teaching and curricula is something we should be doing. We will see if I am the only one.