Monday, August 11, 2008

Freep Misses the Mark on Senate Republican Obstruction of Energy Bills

I like Tom Walsh. I really do. He is one of my favorites. But today's Freep column entitled, "Will lawmakers' fears cost state new energy policy?" misses the mark on just who is responsible for the delay in getting this work done. Just like last year's budget crisis, short government shutdown, and the subsequent MBT surcharge mess all of that created, the press erroneously tries to spread the blame evenly between both chambers on the energy bills - and that is just plain wrong.

Michigan's legislators appear poised to blow it again.

Poised to punt away a chance to create thousands of jobs.

Poised to again display cluelessness, rather than leadership, about the need for a bold, new approach to energy policy.

Members of the state House and Senate do have a chance this week to redeem themselves, to earn respect from a citizenry that sadly has come to expect ineptitude.

Walsh goes on to tell us that they can vote this Wednesday for energy bills that "set a target that 10% of Michigan's power come from renewable sources by 2015, boost energy efficiency efforts, and set the stage for construction of new, cleaner power plants by DTE Energy and CMS Energy". Sound familiar? That is because the House passed this back in April with strong bipartisan support.

April. And at the time I was grumpy with the House for taking so long; after all, they had started talking about it in earnest last fall as soon as the budget crisis had passed. Jim Barcia had introduced the RPS in the Senate long ago, Granholm had already been working in this direction for quite some time, publicly called for it to be passed last November, and then toured the state for emphasis - and the Senate Republicans proceeded to indicate that they were going to obstruct progress on the bills, calling mandates "unacceptable", and generally started throwing up every excuse they could think of avoid getting this work done. They passed things like the partial birth abortion ban, they tried to "fix" their business tax mistake by blowing up the budget one more time, they had to leave for spring vacation, whatever they could use to avoid dealing with this issue, they can and did.

Why would the Senate Republicans deny Michigan this job creating opportunity? Could it be that the Mackinac Center was against it? How about Dick DeVos? You know that these are the players that are pulling the strings in the Michigan Republican Party. They are calling the shots, and they didn't want this to happen. Came right out and said so. Mike Bishop got his orders from his owners and decided to drag this out as long as he possibly could. When the Senate finally got around to moving the bills in late June, once again they passed legislation in the dead of night with changes made that they knew would be unacceptable to the House and the governor in a move that was widely condemned by, well, nearly every newspaper in Michigan, and further delayed this process. Time for vacation!

And you know what? It worked. Now, the excuse is "the election".

A Lansing lobbyist told me Friday that the Legislature probably will delay acting on the energy bills until the lame-duck period after the November elections, or until next year.

The reason? Fear of casting a vote that might irk some citizens just before the election.

And if they had done it back in April, that wouldn't be an issue now, would it? No. We could have joined the other 28 states that are already enjoying job growth and investment from implementing a renewable portfolio standard.

Granholm, who has been aggressively recruiting advanced energy and other clean-technology firms to locate in Michigan, told me Friday that she has been embarrassed -- during talks with global energy firms and journalists from national publications -- to admit that Michigan still has no target for renewable energy.

"I keep telling my staff, we have two years and four months left in office," Granholm said. "When we look back at this extended period of economic crisis, will we be able to say we used it to really diversify the economy and change the mind-set of our citizens?"

Even T. Boone Pickens, the legendary Texas oilman and Republican Party activist, is now an outspoken advocate for wind, solar, natural gas and other energy alternatives.

Will our Lansing legislators finally find the will to act, or will they wimp out again on energy policy as the jobs exodus from Michigan continues?

We'll find out this week.

And once again, the blame is spread across the board, even though House Democrats got the job done months ago. It was Senate Republicans who held up the budget process last year, it is the Senate Republicans holding up the energy policy this year. Want proof? Just follow all these links, or hit my diaries and start reading back. It's all there.

Republicans have admitted to their obstructionism on more than one occasion. It's a shame and a grave disservice to the public that the traditional media refuses to point out just who is holding up progress for our state.