An apparently unnecessary bill on “weatherization-eligible measures for low-income customers” left many in the Capitol scratching their heads Tuesday. But even stranger is that the bill’s author forgot to show up for the hearing on a bill that he requested a special privilege on.
SB 766 by Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) was gutted and amended and referred to the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee after all the other bills for this cycle in the house of origin were already heard.
The scoop on this is the fact that the hearing was taking place at all because so many other bills were already sidelined. But Senate leadership made this special one-bill hearing happen (highly unusual), at the author’s request, yet he didn’t even show up to present the bill Tuesday.
The committee chairman and others tried calling him, only to find out that he was at home, Capitol sources said.
So Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) stepped in, presented the bill, and answered the questions in the debate.
What is SB 766 about?
Andrea Deveau, a Senior Vice President with government relations firm Strategies 360, was the only witness in support of SB 766, representing Recon Dynamics, which she described as “a technology company that stands at the nexus of technological support and modernization, providing asset tracking technologies that enable utility companies to operate more efficiently.” Confused faces stared at her from the hearing room dais.
Deveau said SB 766 “opens the door for the state to leverage low-income weatherization programs to utilize water efficiency technologies to increase savings.”
“I’m still at a loss on what this bill actually does,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). “Can someone please explain?”
“The bill will improve weatherization programs,” Deveau said. She said it directs the California Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission “to consider cost effective implantation of weatherization measures in low-income dwellings… it is an extension of a current program.”
California already requires an electrical or gas corporation to perform home weatherization services for low-income customers if the CPUC determines that a significant need for those services exists in the corporation’s service territory, the bill analysis says.
Bradford wasn’t satisfied. “I understand, but poor folks, just on the nature of being poor, always conserve water,” he said. “They have the lowest usage in the state, so I just don’t understand what we are expanding from. Is there a penalty if they don’t save?”
Deveau said there is no penalty, but rather “sort of communication with smart meters, which they already have installed.”
“The bill also says attic insulation, caulking, weather stripping, low flow faucets,” Hertzberg offered. The bill analysis specifies: “attic insulation, energy efficient refrigerators, energy efficient furnaces, weather-stripping, and other measures.”
“I too am a little confused,” said Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). “I’m curious — you mention water efficient technologies to reduce energy, and you mention low-flow shower heads. I’m just trying to figure out which are conservation measures that result in savings. Is it like a new water heater that uses less electricity?”
Real bill, spot bill, or something else going on?
The hearing went downhill from there, making it apparent that the bill is really not a serious bill. Perhaps it is a spot bill, to be gutted again and used at a later date for some other purpose. To say that the hearing was odd is an understatement.
California Globe contacted Andrea Deveau to get more detail on the bill and her client’s interest. We did not receive a response.
Additionally, I do not find Recon Dynamics or Strategies 360 on the California Secretary of State lobbyist employer page.
California Globe also contacted Sen. Henry Stern’s office to ask for more detail on the bill, and to see if Stern was okay since he missed the hearing. His office called back to ask what the article was about. I again explained that I watched the hearing and needed more information from the author on the bill, and inquired again about Sen. Stern. His office did not respond again by the close of business.
California Globe contacted Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s office to inquire about why he was asked to stand in for Sen. Stern. We did not receive a response.
California Globe also called the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications committee consultant to ask if they received a letter from Sen. Stern authorizing Sen. Hertzberg to present SB 766 in his stead, as is standard protocol. The committee consultant responded and told me I would need to call Sen. Stern’s office and ask him if he sent an authorization letter. She said her understanding of the rules “don’t require another member to request replacement by letter.” However, the Standing Rules of the Senate state:
But that’s only part of the story. The fact that a Senator forgot to show up for a hearing on a bill that he requested a special privilege on, and still was able to get it passed, is astounding. SB 766 passed unanimously.