What a week this has been! I was sworn in Tuesday at noon, and we had so many folks show up from many different parts of the state. We appreciated the cheers from the gallery, that was just really cool! And just a few minutes after, I had to get right to work since the legislature is already in session. There was no rest for the weary coming in during a Special Election.
I wanted to point out a few pieces of legislation that folks in District 99 should be aware of. This week the House approved a bill creating a Utilities Consumer Advocate in the office of the Attorney General (H4379), and grants subpoena power to the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and the Consumer Advocate. This bill was created to add further protections in the interest of consumers in their dealings with public utility companies. That bill will now go to the Senate.
The second piece of legislation I wanted you to be aware of is H4378. This is a bill that replaces the Public Utilities Review Committee with a new 12-member Utility Oversight Committee comprised of 6 legislators, 2 members of the general public and 4 members of the general public appointed by the Governor. Important to note, this committee would screen the Public Service Commission candidates and make nominations for the election of commissioners by the General Assembly (and more). It also imposes strict ethical requirements to prohibit outside influence from utilities regulated by the Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission. As I mentioned on the campaign trail, many of us are fed up with the Public Service Commission, and this is the first step to resolving some of those issues.
Next week bill H3529 should be taken up in the House. I’ve heard from several folks in Mt. Pleasant over the last few days that this issue is important to them. I am not going to support this bill. Retailers and manufacturers want to ensure only the state may regulate the use of one-time-use products (think disposable cups, plastic bags, disposable food containers). For example, if your coastal town wants to limit the use of plastic bags on its beaches, the municipality wouldn’t have jurisdiction as that use would be regulated by the state. I believe the state doesn’t have the right to tell municipalities what they can and can’t do on certain property in their cities and towns, in other words, “Home Rule.” And if a community wants to limit one-time-use products as a means to reduce litter in the environment or protect our beautiful beaches, for example, they shouldn’t be prohibited from doing just that. Oftentimes, whether it’s the Federal government or State government, big government likes to needle where it shouldn’t. Ain’t gonna happen in this case.
And before I get off my soapbox, I wanted to add that there are going to be several pieces of legislation coming up in the next few weeks related to the Base Load Review Act and the nuclear power plant mess. I will write on this at length soon. It seems every time I turn the page, or learn something new, the story changes. I also feel like I am riding on a bullet train going at full speed. I wish we could slow the process down so that not only the legislature but also the general public could have their voices heard on all sides of the issue. I’m concerned by the speed at which we are moving. A decade has been spent screwing this up, and what we do today is going to affect millions of people and businesses across our state for our generation and the next to come.
As always, if you have something on your mind, or want to make sure I have a bill on my radar, please feel free to holler at me any time. My legislative contact info is email@example.com and 803.212.6717 in Columbia. My cell is 843.580.6223 and firstname.lastname@example.org is an alternate way to reach me. I’ll be in Columbia Tuesday through Thursday while we are in session. Stop by to see me if you’re up this way, I’d love to shake your hand!
I hope y’all have a great weekend, I’ll be in touch!
PS – I almost forgot to mention. I made a commitment during the campaign to disclose ALL of my sources of income and the amounts, going above and beyond what we are required to do when filing for office. I posted that information online a few days after the election, honoring my commitment for greater transparency. And it starts with me putting my money where my mouth is.