A guest post by author Patrice Johnson
In a move signaling Michigan Democrats could be shifting far left, Representative Yousef Rabhi sponsored a House joint resolution on Nov. 29, 2022, to create a state public utility.
The proposed constitutional amendment states, “to purchase or acquire by eminent domain all of the electric and natural gas generation, distribution, or transmission facilities owned by any investor-owned utility in this state.”
In short, Rabhi, the Floor Leader for the House Democratic Caucus, would like to amend the state’s Constitution to take over ownership of public utilities. The enactment into law is pending the public’s approval at the next election. Undoubtedly, it will be pitched to the public as good for their pocketbooks.
For those with short memories, the once wealthy Venezuela became a failed state after nationalizing its oil companies. Now, impoverished citizens are reduced to having to choose between starving to death or eating their pets. To willingly follow in their footsteps would be to take a giant stride toward communism/Marxism, with the government owning and controlling everything for the so-called good of the many.
A House joint resolution falls short of a bill or a law. It is toothless. But the symbolic gesture makes a powerful statement. Nothing in politics happens by accident, so for the incoming powers to suggest that the state of Michigan should claim eminent domain and ownership of public utilities is equivalent to raising a red hammer and sickle over the Lansing Capitol.
Especially since, effective in January 2023, the Democrats will control all three branches of state government: the governorship, the Senate and House chambers of the legislature, and the majority of the State Supreme Court.
A horse lover might say the Dems appear to be taking the bit in their teeth. When their party takes majority control of both chambers of the legislature, leadership may not feel satisfied to merely shred right-to-work laws and smear those with the audacity to question the integrity of the state’s elections. Instead, the incoming legislative majority appears peckish to increase the size of government and centralize control at the expense of free-market capitalism, economic growth, and private ownership.
State Rep. Yousef Rabhi is serving in his third term representing the 53rd House District, which includes parts of the city of Ann Arbor and portions of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield, and Scio townships.
A conspiracy theorist might cast a wary eye at Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) and her close ties with the Michigan Economic Development Council. The two, with advocacy from Rep. Elissa Slotkin, MSU, Lansing Community College, and others, teamed up to bring the controversial Konnech to Michigan.
Despite the election software company’s deep and prolonged ties with the Chinese Communist Party, Michigan leadership fostered Konnech’s growth to the point the Department of Defense adopted its election software to operate its Uniformed And Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voting system.
In October 2022, Gov. Whitmer and MEDC announced the recruitment of a battery factory to Big Rapids, Michigan. The Great Lakes State was using taxpayer funds to support the “transformational investment” by the global battery company Gotion, a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary of Gotion High-tech Co., a company founded in 1998 and based in Hefei, China.
Also in October, as “part of a series of electric vehicle battery investments,” the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced it would give a $200 million award to Microvast Holdings to build a battery separator facility in Tennessee. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan Democrat governor, said the grant would “supercharge the private sector to ensure our clean energy future is American-made.”
The release did not say, however, that the Texas company receiving the taxpayer-funded DOE grant operates primarily from China and is under scrutiny from American financial regulators.
Battery manufacturing, heavily dominated by the Chinese Communist Party, was made stronger after the U.S. gave China the battery technology that the U.S. had developed using $15 million in taxpayer funds.
Coincidentally, the MEDC announced it is spending sizeable amounts of money for three community revitalization projects in the iron-rich northern communities of Calumet and Iron Mountain, Mich.
“The projects are expected to generate a total capital investment of $2.7 million,” the MEDC news release stated. One project “is expected to generate a total capital investment of $832,847 and create 16 new jobs, supported by a $334,798 Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant.”
A skeptic might question the $1,167,645 in taxpayer dollars to create 16 jobs, an expenditure of nearly $73,000 per job ($832,847 + $334,798 = 1,167,645 / 16 = $72,977).
For now, the question remains: Why would the Democrat Floor Leader pick this moment in time to introduce a joint resolution torn from a page of the Communist playbook?
House Joint Resolution Y
2022-HJR-Y [Bolded language would be added]:
A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution of 1963 by amending sections 15 and 29 of article VII and adding section 31 to article V to create a state public utility.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the state of Michigan, That the following amendment to the state constitution of 1963 to create a state public utility is proposed, agreed to, and submitted to the people of the state:
Sec. 31. (1) The state public utility is created.
(2) The state public utility board is created. The public service commission shall appoint the first members of the board within 30 days after the effective date of this section. The term of a member of the board is six years or until a successor is appointed by the public service commission, whichever is later. If a vacancy occurs on the board, the chairperson of the board shall appoint an individual to fill the vacancy for the balance of the term. A majority of the members of the board constitute a quorum for transacting business. A vote in favor by a majority of the members of the board serving is required for any action of the board. The board shall conduct its business in compliance with state law regarding open meetings. A writing that is prepared, owned, used, possessed, or retained by the board in performing an official function is subject to retention and disclosure as provided under state law. The board shall do all of the following:
(a) Purchase or acquire by eminent domain all of the electric and natural gas generation, distribution, or transmission facilities owned by any investor-owned utility in this state.
(b) Authorize the issuance of bonds to finance or refinance the purchase, acquisition, or development of electric or natural gas generation, distribution, or transmission facilities.
(c) Set all rates, fares, fees, charges, services, rules, conditions of service, and all other matters pertaining to the formation, operation, or direction of the state public utility.
(d) No later than 18 months after the effective date of this section, implement a plan that does all of the following:
(i) Establishes lower rates for low-income residential customers.
(ii) Builds across this state accessible, rapid-charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
(iii) Makes rapid investments in the distribution network in this state to increase reliability and improve capacity for interconnections of new renewable generation.
(3) No later than 18 months after the effective date of this section, each investor-owned utility in this state shall divest its generation, distribution, and transmission systems to the state public utility.
(4) The legislature shall implement this section by law.
Sec. 15. Any county, when authorized by its board of supervisors commissioners, shall have the authority to enter or to intervene in any action or certificate proceeding involving the services, charges, or rates of any privately owned public utility furnishing or utility established under section 31 of article V, that furnishes services or commodities to ratepayers within the county.
Sec. 29. (1) No Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person, partnership, association, or corporation, public or private, operating a public utility shall not have the right to any of the following:
(a) The use of the highways, streets, alleys, or other public places of any county, township, city, or village for wires, poles, pipes, tracks, conduits, or other utility facilities, without the consent of the duly constituted authority of the county, township, city, or village. ; or to transact
(b) Transact local business therein in a county, township, city, or village without first obtaining a franchise from the county, township, city, or village.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this constitution, the right of all counties, townships, cities, and villages to the reasonable control of their highways, streets, alleys, and public places is hereby reserved to such local units of government.
(3) The state public utility established in section 31 of article V has the right to use the highways, streets, alleys, or other public places of any county, township, city, or village for wires, poles, pipes, tracks, conduits, or other utility facilities, without the consent of the duly constituted authority of the county, township, city, or village. The state public utility established in section 31 of article V does not need to obtain a franchise to transact business in a county, township, city, or village.
Resolved further that the foregoing amendment shall be submitted to the people of the state at the next general election in the manner provided by law.