Dave Min Battles Utility Giants Over Ratepayer Rights; Labor Kills his Bill.

This came to us the other day from State Senator Dave Min, who is running for Congress against Scott Baugh. We’re always glad to see a Democrat fight big wealthy special interests on behalf of the people, and we hope Dave beats Scott. But wait, Dave’s bill went down in flames? See more, underneath this press release:

IRVINE, CA — Earlier this week, SB 938, a bill introduced by California State Senator Dave Min which would have prohibited investor-owned utilities from charging their political activities to ratepayers, failed by one vote in the Senate’s Energy and Utilities Committee. At a time when electric and gas utilities have been spiking, this commonsense bill would have ended the outrageous practices of utility companies like PG&E of lobbying regulators and legislators– including for rate increases to cover the costs of expensive new projects– and then sticking customers with the tab for these political activities.

“The failure of SB 938, which would have reined in the excessive political influence of the big utility companies, is a stark reminder that even in states like California, special interests wield far too much power over the legislative and regulatory process,” said Senator Min. “While I am disappointed in this result, I am undeterred. When I am elected to Congress, I will keep on fighting against corruption and undue influence by big businesses, just as I have done my whole career. Americans deserve a government that works for them, not for the highest bidder.”

Senator Min is the Democratic candidate running in the hotly contested race to succeed Katie Porter in California’s 47th Congressional District. The contrasts between Min and his Republican opponent Scott Baugh could not be starker. A former University of California Irvine Law Professor who began his legal career prosecuting corporate fraud at the SEC, Min has spent his career in public service fighting for a fairer economy and more transparency and integrity in our government. Scott Baugh, a career lobbyist who was indicted for 22 counts of campaign finance fraud and related charges and was also implicated in a criminal conspiracy to illegally register voters without their consent, has spent his career trying to use his high-level GOP connections to personally enrich himself. Min is the only candidate in this race who has sworn off corporate PAC money. And while Baugh has taken thousands of dollars in blood money from Big Oil and the gun lobby, Min is endorsed by Sierra Club and the Brady Campaign.

Min introduced SB 938 in response to news reports finding that investor-owned utilities had systematically engaged in political influence campaigns intended to weaken the laws and regulations overseeing them and also to lobby for more rate increases, and then had charged these activities to ratepayers. Last year, it came to light that the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) had spent at least $36 million on political activities meant to undermine the state’s clean energy rules. More recently, PG&E admitted that its $6 million TV ad campaign to try to push for more rate increases was charged to ratepayers. Despite existing federal laws that technically prevent utilities from billing ratepayers for lobbying expenses, these regulations contain loopholes that have enabled utilities nationwide to use ratepayer funds for political lobbying.


So wait. Vern here again. This SB 938 failed in committee by one vote? Here in California even though we have a vaunted Democrat Supermajority? As Silvio Rodriguez sang, “Si capturo al culpable de tanto desastre, lo va a lamentar!” (If I catch whoever’s responsible for this disaster, they’re gonna be sorry!) Seriously, listen – it’s ANOTHER great Silvio song:

And this is the first track that David Byrne chose for his Silvio Rodriguez compilation Canciones Urgentes,” but FAR from the best one. The Talking Heads savant was frustrated that it was so difficult to get the Cuban songwriter’s great records here in the US, so he did his part releasing this compilation on his own label, and you should really get it now.

But, right. WHO KILLED Dave Min’s SB 938? We really need to know. Democrats have a “super-majority” in both houses; and the Senate Standing Committee On Energy, Utilities & Communications, where the bill apparently died, consists of 14 Democrats and 4 Republicans (nearly half the Senate seems to be on that Committee!) And when you look up the votes, which you should be able to do as a citizen, it tells you “(2024-04-23: April 22 set for second hearing. Failed passage in committee. (Ayes 9. Noes 3.)” So the Democrats get credit for voting yes on this good commonsense bill, but it still got killed somehow. As a wise person once said (actually said many times) WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?

So I Talk to my Sources.

I talked to my sources on that committee, and it turns out organized labor, specifically the electrical workers who have greater loyalty to the utilities industry than to the public good, lobbied against it, claiming it would somehow endanger some projects that’d give them jobs. And the Committee’s chairman, Senator Steven Bradford of Carson, dancing to their tune, insisted on so many amendments it would have rendered the bill meaningless, amendments Dave wouldn’t agree to. And “there’s a certain deference given to committee chairmen,” so it WASN’T just Bradford insisting on this shit. But still no Democrats get dinged for voting against the bill. Now THAT sucks balls. How often does shit like this happen in Sacramento?

Hey – the IBEW, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers! Their political director is Doug “Vern Nelson is an idiot” Mangione! I know that guy real well! I’ve been fighting him on shitty projects for over a decade, projects that would employ some of his workers. At least he has a sense of humor and some self-awareness. He was real funny on April 16 when he spoke up for Disneyland Forward at Anaheim Council. Go to 6:41:50 in the video where Doug memorably cracks:

“I’ve been coming to this chamber for almost two decades (laughs) discussing development in the Resort zone… And you know, this Chamber – I feel it tonight – is filled with the Ghosts of Action Past – we can feel them hovering over us, I can hear the chains rattling. BUT (laughs) every action should not be related only to the bad ones, that can taint our judgment! We should view this project on its merit…”

Doug was certainly referring to the last big thing he lobbied Anaheim for, which was Sidhu’s crooked and discredited Stadium Giveaway (when I also opposed Doug.) Could’ve also been any number of luxury hotel subsidies he cried out for over the years. As though his electrician members can’t get work without helping special interests rip off taxpayers or pollute the environment. I mostly thought of all the times we butted heads over the Poseidon desal boondoggle (thankfully killed by the Coastal Commission.) I remember when Doug spoke for the plant at Garden Grove, after just having seen the earthquake thriller San Andreas – “When there’s an earthquake like that, we’re gonna need all the water we can get,” Doug extemporized. And so, as I had to point out, he lobbied for a DESAL PLANT TO BE LOCATED ON AN EARTHQUAKE FAULT.

Doug Mangione may tell all his labor buddies that I’m “an idiot,” but at least I’m not saddled with a SMOOTH JAZZ NAME that I’ll have to take to the grave.

Sorry, I just really wanted to post Dave Min’s press release with no commentary, like Dan Chmielewski would, because I want Dave to beat Scott Baugh. But I was left with too many questions, that you and I deserve the answers to. So, selfish, compromised big labor stuck with the oppressors and killed Dave’s worthy, commonsense bill. But hey, at least Dave gave it the old college try. Lobbyist Scott Baugh woulda done the utilities’ bidding no questions asked.

Let’s have one more song, to clean that Mangione out of your head. A fun song about some kind of High Energy Plan. After all, this is about energy.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.