The ALEC-sponsored bill to gut North Carolina’s clean energy standard failed last week in one House committee. But as the Charlotte Observer reports, last night it passed a Senate committee over shouted objections to do something most people take for granted in a democracy — counting votes to see which side has more.
Over the objections of Democratic lawmakers, a Senate committee approved legislation Wednesday to end the state’s 6-year-old renewable energy program.
Opponents of the bill shouted “No!” when voting to show their frustration at Republican Chairman Bill Rabon’s refusal to count votes with a show of hands. In what was clearly a razor-thin margin, both sides said they would have won if the votes had been counted.
“North Carolina is not a banana republic,” Democratic Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh, one of the no votes, said after the meeting. “That was no way to run a proceeding.”
It was also evident that the Republicans are split on the legislation that would end a state policy of requiring electric utilities to buy green electricity from solar farms and other renewable generators.
At least a half-dozen Republicans voted with Democrats against the controversial bill Wednesday.
The Senate bill would keep the utilities’ clean energy requirement at a laughable 3 percent and get rid of the mandate entirely by 2023. Utilities support the standard: Duke Energy has found that the clean energy promoted by the standard helps with peak load, is reliable, and makes a profit. North Carolina agriculture showed up to testify in favor of the standard, from farmers to the Pork Council. (Pork farmers would rather use the methane from swine waste lagoons to make energy instead of letting it waft into the atmosphere.)
Who opposed it? Mostly radical conservative groups like the Heartland Institute, the Koch Brothers, ALEC, Art Pope, the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and their friends in the North Carolina State Legislature.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Bill Rabon heard the loud nays (consisting of at least six Republicans voting with Democrats) and without allowing a show of hands to count, approved the legislation out of committee. This is democracy in action in North Carolina:
(Video: NC Policy Watch)
This Senate bill moves to the Commerce Committee for a vote and would have to pass there as well as before the full Senate by May 16 to get to the House in time to pass this legislative session.
If it gets there the House version’s sponsor, ALEC member Mike Hager, will have to bring his version back before his Public Utilities and Energy Committee for a re-vote after his bill failed there last week. Hager was in the Senate committee room, talking with staff as this “vote” took place.
Gutting laws that have wide support and economically benefit the whole state becomes easier when you can do it just because you say so, and don’t have to worry about counting votes.