The Chamber of Commerce Overlooks Prop 16's Massive Drafting Errors

Posted on 16 February 2010

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By Brian Leubitz

John Geesman, a former California Energy Commissioner, has been tracking PG&E's naked power ploy, Prop 16, for a while now. You can find his writings at the PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet.  In a posting from yesterday, he tears into the California Chamber of Commerce for endorsing it. Apparently, the Cal Chamber hasn't bothered to read the measure before they just sorta agreed to do PG&E's bidding.  PG&E is, of course, a big contributor to the CalChamber.

The statewide California Association of Realtors last week took a formal position against the PG&E-sponsored initiative, while some months ago -- before it even qualified for the ballot -- the gullible State Chamber endorsed it.   

{However,} the drafting error, a failure to clearly define what constitutes the "new customer" that triggers an election with a 2/3's vote requirement -- which strikes terror into the heart of every realtor with a listing or a buyer in any of the 48 effected communitiesis probably an even bigger threat to new or relocating businessesin those same locales. Analysis of wording flaws here and here. (PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet)

That drafting error could end up making for a whole mess of litigation.  While PG&E certainly didn't intend it to be an anti-Walmart tool, it could end up being just that.  It's almost enough to make you think about supporting this mess.  Think about it. Walmart wants to open a new store in say, Sacramento, where there is a public power provider.  Sure, it's not like progressives would want to mess with the local public power provider, but a tool is a tool, right?  Of course, it could end up fighting more than just Walmart, and could morph into a NIMBYists dream.

PG&E went out alone on this measure, and the language is just terrible. Riddled with errors, and the concept itself is just loathsome. Introducing a new constitutional amendment for a supermajority election requirement? Yikes!

All of this is happening as San Francisco looks to finally kick their Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) into gear, and as Marin County just signed their power contracts.  This is a petty move by PG&E to bring their San Francisco fight to the whole state. It's shortsighted, but they'll have millions of dollars to pass this stinker. There won't be a lot of money opposing it, just common sense. So, be sure to tell your friends of all political persuasions just how ridiculous this one is. Defeating this one is going to have to go grassroots-style.

Brian Leubitz publishes a leading California progressive blog covering California politics. After practicing law in San Francisco, Brian transitioned into politics.

This red herring argument could not be further from the truth. You are making claims that are beyond the scope of this measure’s overall effect and are expressly exempted from the Proposition 16’s vote requirement.

The choice for local governments to go into the retail electricity business can cost hundreds of millions of public dollars and incur debt that our children and future generations must repay. Given the huge cost and long-term commitment, voters should have a choice in the matter.

If I may put my own spin on it, and apologies if it sounds a tad redundant.

Prop 16 would mandate that any local community who wants to expand or upgrade their public utilities, or implement green technologies such as solar or wind, has to hold a local election and must get a 2/3 majority before moving ahead with the project. Also, say you build a house just outside of the public utilities supply area, and you would like them to be your provider, under this loosely worded initiative, just to get hooked up would have go before a community vote and get a 2/3 majority.

Here's the rub. Many municipalities in California have been doing just fine running their own public utilities. Most publicly run utilities, though cheaper than PG&E, run more efficiently, actually run at a profit, and put more cash into the localities purse, keeping that money within a community. By putting any future projects to a vote will probably cost the community in terms of time put off on the project/s to hold the special election, money spent on it, and the possibility that the local measure, which the local area may need desperately, may not pass. A 2/3 majority is not an easy majority to obtain. Matter of fact, it is arguably one of the reasons our state is in the mess it is in. To be honest, if Prop 16 mandated a simple 51% majority vote, I would probably not be as opposed as I am. And since this measure is an amendment to our states constitution, it will take another proposition to annul it.

This measure, very deceptively named "Taxpayers Right to Vote", is financed entirely by PG&E, and I have come to the conclusion that it is actually a power grab, an effort by PG&E to further monopolize our state's power grid. Please vote NO on Prop 16. This measure is bad for California, and not needed.

If you would like to learn more, please check out our little grassroots Facebook group, "NO on Prop 16: Stop PG&E's monopolistic bid for power", in opposition to this initiative.

Also there is the "Taxpayers to Stop PG&E's Power Grab", an excellent source for news articles, editorials, information, how to volunteer, etc. about Prop 16:

Drafting error and others errors that you mention in your post are happening day by day. The auditors who audit and the accountant who take care of accounts both are loosing their honesty ad why PG&E is not taking any action? Miele vacuum cleaners

I cannot understand why this is such a big issue. I think this can be fixed very easy. I think we can work on this more in the future.
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