Forum covers big issues
EVANSVILLE, IN — State Rep. Ron Bacon said March 11 he would fight against Senate-passed legislation that limits how much money those using solar power can make off selling excess energy, while state Rep. Ryan Hatfield said he has not decided how he will vote.
Senate Bill 309 passed the Senate 39-9. Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, opposed the bill. It is now before the House for consideration. A committee hearing is scheduled March 22.
Vectren supports the legislation, saying current state policy on net metering over compensates electricity customers who install rooftop solar.
As solar panes become more affordable and customers generate their own power, changes to rules governing self-generation should reflect the market price for electricity, according to Vectren.
Bacon, R-Chandler, told the audience at the Meet Your Legislators event at Central Library that he has 96 solar panels on his pole barn in the country, and does net metering how the law states.
“I’m very fortunate that I can afford to do that. Not everyone can,” Bacon said. “I am totally against this bill. I had an at-length meeting with Vectren ... They are aware of my feelings on this.”
Under Senate Bill 309, homeowners, small businesses, churches and others who already have installed solar panels or wind turbines would get the higher retail rate for their excess energy for another 30 years.
New adopters of such technology over the next five years would get the higher retail rate for the energy they sell back until 2032. And those who install the technology after 2022 would get a smaller incentive.
Advocates for renewable energy view the legislation has a rollback of progress.
Hatfield, D-Evansville, said he “has met with folks on every side of this issue” He said renewables should be encouraged, but also wants to protect ratepayers and to “not enhance monopolies” among energy companies.
Hatfield is on the House committee that will consider Senate Bill 309, and he said changes could be made to it there.
“When you sit on a committee a bill is coming to, you have to be more measured in your response,” Hatfield said. “It’s important to make sure you’re in a position to make a bill better.”
Saturday’s Meet Your Legislators session covered a variety of other topics, including Indiana’s opioid epidemic, pre-K education and road funding.
Vanderburgh County Superior Court Judge Wayne Trockman praised the work of local lawmakers, saying, “I’m glad you’re not embroiling yourself in social issues and are taking care of business of the state.”
After Trockman made that comment, however, lawmakers were asked about an abortion measure pending before them: House Bill 1128, requiring abortion providers to tell patients about a possible abortion reversal procedure. It passed the House 54-41. Bacon is a sponsor of the bill. Hatfield and Becker both said they oppose it.
Becker said the legislative session has seen 572 bills introduced in the Senate, with 201 (35 percent) passed. Half of the passed bills did so unanimously, and 97 percent did with some measure of bipartisan support. In the second half of the session, 162 House-passed bills will come to the Senate.
The legislative process, Becker said, “is not nearly as political as some people would think.”
The final Meet Your Legislators event of the session will be at 9 a.m. April 8 at Central Library.
Organizers say they anticipate all Southwest Indiana lawmakers to attend, including those who have been having their own events in other locations during the current session.