Democrats Pan Controversial Vote on Renewable Energy

May 21, 2015

In interviews with WCQS, 3 Democrats expressed dismay at how a bill dealing with renewable energy was pushed through committee.  You can find those interviews below.

The bill freezing North Carolina's renewable energy requirement advanced on a disputed vote.  The bill would prevent a 2007 law requiring 12.5 percent of electricity produced in the state come from renewables from going forward, capping it at the current 6 percent.  Both WRAL and the News and Observer of Raleigh report the 'NO' votes were louder and possibly more numerous in a Senate Finance Committee voice vote.  But the committee's chairman, Senator Bob Rucho refused a handcount, despite Senate rules requiring one if requested.  Rucho insisted he had that authority.  That prompted outcries of abuse of power from Democrats and even some Republicans in the committee. 

The renewable energy measure is attached to an unrelated bill on natural gas that now heads to the full Senate and would then return to the House if passed.  The battle over renewable energy is playing out on multiple fronts, in the budget as well as on measures attached to separate bills. The effort to do away with subsidies for the industry is largely spearheaded by Representative Mike Hager, a former Duke Energy employee.  Critics of the effort say the solar industry in particular has been a huge success story in the state, adding energy and jobs in rural counties, and these efforts threaten its future.    

WCQS reached out to members of both parties on the finance committee, including Senator Bob Rucho.  We heard back from 3 Democrats: Senators Terry Van Duyn of Buncombe County, Jeff Jackson of Mecklenburg County, and Dan Blue of Wake County. 

Senator Terry Van Duyn called Rucho's move "unprecedented."  She also spoke out against the bill, calling it a mistake to roll back renewable energy in the state.  You can hear our full interview below:

Senator Jeff Jackson of Mecklenburg County said he was so upset with the way the vote was handled he had to take a walk and gather himself before he would speak to the media.  He called it a "gross subversion of democracy" and one of the most distressing things he's seen.  That full conversation is below:

Senator Dan Blue of Wake County is the lawmaker that requested "division" - the hand count vote that Sen. Rucho denied.  Blue is a long-serving member of the legislature.  He says he's seen this happen before, but not quite like this.  You can hear that conversation below:

This story will be updated with more interviews should they come in.