PHOENIX — A state senate committee hearing got heated Wednesday afternoon as legislators and energy representatives slammed the ballot proposal tied to Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer as an unconstitutional mandate on Arizona families.
Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli, the chairman of the Senate Government Committee, offered a strike-through amendment to House Bill 2005 earlier this week addressing penalties that can be imposed on public service corporations. The amendment, according to a memo released by the Arizona State Senate research staff, establishes that “the exclusive remedy or penalty assessed to a public service corporation, will be a civil penalty.”
The penalty would pertain to “any alleged or actual violation” of a state constitutional provision or rule originating at the Arizona Corporation Commission regarding electricity generation.
Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona (CEHA), the political committee tied to Steyer, the Democratic donor, criticized the amendment online as “an illegal scheme to ignore the constitution and voter-approved standards for renewable energy.”
CEHA is pushing a controversial ballot initiative that would require Arizona’s utilities to obtain half of their electricity generation from renewable sources.
The text of the proposal has been widely criticized for excluding nuclear energy from its list of considered “renewable” sources. Arizona is home to the largest nuclear power plant in the United States, and nuclear sources constituent a significant portion of the state’s energy portfolio.
CEHA is concerned that Borrelli’s amendment will threaten its ability to push and enforce its ballot proposal, and the group released advertisements early Wednesday targeting Republican members of the Senate Government Committee, as well as State Senator Kate Brophy McGee.
Brophy McGee quickly swung back at one of the attack ads, saying that she rejects the notion of “California billionaires buying their way into #Arizona and dictating policies that will raise utility rates on families in my district.”
Republican State Representative Vince Leach, who supports the strike-through amendment, was the first member of the legislature to testify before the committee.
“It sends a strong and an unmistakable message to those out-of-state people that want to come in,” he said. “We just tell them: ‘Arizona’s constitution is not for sale.’”
Rod Ross, a senior government affairs representative with Arizona Public Service, asked the committee why Steyer’s group excluded the state’s second-largest utility, Salt River Project, from the ballot text, adding: “It sure seems like they’re objecting to something other than clean energy.”
“We’re concerned that it will devastate rural Arizona by closing power plants and killing thousands of jobs,” Ross explained. “We’re also concerned that it would eliminate at least $38 million in tax revenue that currently flows to K-12 schools and public education.”
Republican State Senator Gail Griffin concurred, saying that the initiative “would be devastating to the cooperatives in [her] district in rural Arizona.”
The committee approved the amendment on a 4-3 vote. It likely will now head to the full senate.