Last-Minute Amendment to Cap-and-Trade Bill Includes Indecipherable Provisions for ‘Cental Procurement States”

By Marie Magleby | June 30, 2009 | 9:07 PM EDT

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

( - Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) inserted a last-minute 310-page amendment into the cap-and-trade climate change bill just hours before the bill reached a House vote last Friday evening, and the amendments included indecipherable provisions for something called a “central procurement state.”
Lawmakers, who eventually passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 on a 219-212 vote, had little time to review the lengthy amendment, which was posted at 3:09 a.m. Friday, less than 15 hours before the 5:30 p.m. vote.

The amendment referred to a “central procurement State” 11 times, but no provisions for a "central procurement state" had been included in the original 1,201-page version of the bill before Waxman added his amendment Friday morning. Lawmakers who never got a chance to study the amended version before the bill was passed would have had a difficult time knowing exactly what it was for which they voted.
Despite the multiple references to a “central procurement State,” precisely what that means remains unclear because the long-winded definition in the amendment itself is nearly impossible for a lay reader to decipher.

The definition of a “central procurement State,” as stated in the first of Waxman’s amendments, is: “a State that, as of Jan. 1, 2009, had adopted and implemented a legally enforceable mandate that, in lieu of requiring utilities to submit credits or certificates issued based on generation of electricity from (or to purchase or generate electricity from) resources defined by the State as renewable, requires retail electric suppliers to collect payments from electricity ratepayers within the State that are used for central procurement, by a State agency or a public benefit corporation established pursuant to State law, of credits or certificates issued based on generation of electricity from resources defined by the State as renewable.” called the House Energy and Commerce Committee twice on Monday to seek clarification about what a “central procurement State” is but never received a response. Congress is now in a weeklong recess in anticipation of the Independence Day holiday.

Other amendments expanded the definition of biomass to include woody biomass and agriculture waste that is commonly used on private farmlands, and gave the federal government new authority to build interstate power lines in the West. Waxman’s 310 pages of amendments also included many technical amendments that replaced single words and corrected minor errors.
As House members prepared to vote on the bill on Friday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) claimed the floor for longer than one hour to read major portions of Waxman’s amendments.

Although some of his colleagues were eager to vote quickly, Boehner said it was important to take the time so that members and citizens could be informed about the eleventh-hour amendments and how they would affect the American people.
“Today, in what will be remembered as the defining vote of the 111th Congress, House Democrats passed a 1,500-page national energy tax bill that no one even had the chance to read,” Boehner said.

“The American people have the right to know what is in this legislation and, more importantly, what impact it will have on middle-class families and small businesses,” Boehner added.
When Waxman protested Boehner’s right to unrestricted time at the podium, the House Speaker Pro Tempore who was filling in for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) explained: “The custom of the House is to listen to the leaders’ comments.”
Boehner continued: “The gentleman (Waxman) has had his 30 years to put this bill together, and the House is going to spend a whopping five hours debating the most profound piece of legislation to come to this floor in a hundred years.
“And the chairman has the audacity to drop a 300 plus-page amendment in the hopper at 3:09 AM this morning. So I would ask my colleagues - don’t you think the American people expect us to understand what’s in this bill before we vote on it?”
Many members of the House voted on the bill without having read it in its entirety, including Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) who told on Friday: “You’d have to have hours and hours and hours to be able to do all that, but we’re well aware of the main items.”