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House GOP getting close on energy; vote pushed to next week

December 13, 2016

Courtesy of MIRS News Service

A House vote on the long-awaited energy reform package was kicked to next week, but the Republican caucus has come within a handful of the votes needed to get the legislation to the Governor’s desk before session ends at year’s end.

A source told MIRS Republicans are around six votes away from meeting the Hastert Rule of 31 votes needed within the GOP caucus to bring the item to the floor. A vote could come as early as Tuesday or, at the very least, will be placed on second reading, a Republican source said. 

Last week, MIRS reported that energy choice concerns, led by Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Larkin Twp.), was gaining traction among conservatives. A source told MIRS that, as of today, more than half the Republican Caucus is inclined to ditch the package over energy choice concerns. 

Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) has largely given the negotiating reins over to House Energy Policy Committee Chair Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), who is apparently facing an uphill climb against utilities’ interests on two fronts: electric choice and net metering fees. Nesbitt has been working closely with Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Agency for Energy’s executive director Valerie Brader.

The package sent over from the Senate contains first-of-its-kind language that would assess fees on users who self generate energy, such as through solar panels. Amy Heart, spokesperson for the Alliance for Solar Choice, said she believed this language is a test-balloon for pushing similar language in other states that will soon be passing their own energy reforms. 

Net metering is reported to be one of two top bargaining chips among Republican members. A source said scaling back the net metering fee language is one of the ways Nesbitt is trying to pull together votes from both sides of the aisle, the issues making strange bedfellows of personal liberty conservatives and environmental progressives. Heart said supporters would just like to see the status quo of one percent net metering kept. 

“lt’s often portrayed that the net metering issue is more of a Democratic-type thing, but numerous conservatives support net metering. It allows people to do with their private property what they see fit and make it worthwhile for them,” said Tony Daunt director of operations for Michigan Freedom Fund. 

Democrats’ ire toward net metering fees is well known and would certainly curry favor in the caucus, but according to a source with the Democratic caucus it is not yet known whether it would be enough votes to help Republicans bring the tally up to 55. 

The other issue on the table is the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), some Republicans would like to see the 5 percent increase worked out in the Senate go and instead return to the 10 percent “benchmark” language in the House version from last year. 

But that may be a nonstarter avenue as Democrats would not be able to support a package that does not increase the RPS limits, that same Democratic source said.

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