Clean Energy Jobs Act unknowns put lawmakers on edge
The mystery surrounding changes to the state’s Clean Energy Jobs Act is sowing distrust among lawmakers who fear new policy with no input.
“I don’t have a major problem if the changes are based on what was talked about during public hearings, but I’m not convinced that’s what’s going to happen,” said state Rep. Michael Huebsch, R-West Salem. “And that’s because we’ve been completely shut out of the process.”
The process is at a point where the Legislature expects an amendment to the bill, which proposes energy policy changes for utilities and development, but some lawmakers do not know what will be in the amendment. Bill co-sponsor state Rep. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay, said the amendment likely will be introduced Monday.
The only amendment detail he would provide is that there no longer would be a requirement for electricity produced by nuclear plants to remain in Wisconsin. The bill still would allow for construction of the plants, Soletski said.
“The bill has less than it did before,” he said. “Maybe that’s why the opponents are upset. They’ll have less to pick at.”
The lack of detail has prompted Huebsch and state reps. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay, and Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, to send a letter to Assembly leadership asking for 72 hours of public review, another public hearing on the bill and an independent cost-benefit analysis once the amendment is introduced.
Rebekah Sweeney, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, would not comment on whether leadership will grant that request.
The bill stems from recommendations in 2008 by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming and has drawn criticism from utility and construction industry groups over the bill’s potential effects on business.
Those effects could stem from such provisions in the original bill as new taxes on electricity production and automatic building code updates based on international, rather than state, building codes, said Brad Boycks, government affairs director for the Wisconsin Builders Association.
“We have not taken a position on another public hearing,” he said. “But we’d certainly want plenty of time to analyze what changes come.”
Soletski, who said he wants to hold executive session on the amendment later this week, said he does not expect another public hearing.
“We’ve had more than 30 hours of hearings on this bill,” he said, “and the amendment covers quite a few of the bases that people were concerned about, including the representatives who sent the letter.”
If the amendment is introduced Monday, Huebsch said, it might give lawmakers time to review the changes because both the Assembly and Senate are in session Tuesday.
“But I’ve heard, ‘It’ll be out Friday’ or ‘It’ll be out Monday’ before,” he said. “Right now, I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude.”
What lawmakers finally see, Soletski said, will be changes reflecting input from public hearings, lawmakers and people who contacted the sponsors’ offices. The amendment, he said, will not introduce new policy.
“I don’t think everyone’s going to be 100 percent happy with the final bill,” Soletski said. “And I’m fine with that. It means we’re doing something right.”