Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is chairman of the Senate Public Utilities Commission.
Jun 16, 2014, 2:51pm EDT UPDATED: Jun 16, 2014, 3:36pm EDT
Tom KnoxReporter-Columbus Business First
Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is known for his blunt speech. But an email the Cincinnati Republican sent to renewable energy backers has them accusing Seitz of unprofessionalism and unnecessary gloating.
Seitz counters that the memo is constructive criticism for those whose opposition to alter Ohio’s energy mandates has not worked.
Seitz sent the email to about a dozen opponents of Senate Bill 310, mostly lobbyists for renewable and environmental groups, a few hours after Gov. John Kasich signed the two-year renewable and energy-efficiency freeze Friday. The message begins with congratulations on “hard-fought but ultimately (from your perspective) unsuccessful efforts” to derail the freeze, then admonishes the recipients for a “Nancy Reagan approach (Just Say No)” to Seitz’s Senate Bill 58, a precursor to S.B. 310 that Seitz thought could pass earlier this year.
Seitz, chairman of the Senate Public Utilities Commission, wrote that opponents’ temporary success in stopping his bill resulted in a two-year freeze that “serves the interests you represent less suitably than did S.B. 58 in its final form. So, thank you for being obstinate.”
Politics can be callous, but Seitz’s letter is unique, several recipients told me.
“He’s spiking the ball in the end zone,” said Jack Shaner, senior director of legislative and public affairs at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Even Bo Schembechler wouldn’t have sunk that low.”
Seitz told me he’s sent similar messages to opponents before. And with a committee soon to be formed during the freeze to review the current renewable and energy-efficiency rules, he said he wanted opponents to “consider something other than saying no to everything.”
“From my perspective, S.B. 58 might have been better off for you guys compared to what you ended up with,” Seitz told me.
Some opponents say the email and its attachment ( see them both here) – a “scorecard” that compares elements of his bill and the freeze – is Seitz taking credit for the freeze. Seitz said he’ll take some credit, but it isn’t his bill.
Seitz spends a paragraph discussing the compromise that would have shortened the freezeby a year. It wasn’t adopted, and Seitz wrote that while he didn’t think the bill was “substantively serious in any respect,” compromise supporters should have tried to “work with the bill sponsor, committee chair, or leadership (or even all three!).”
“We tried – they didn’t return our calls,” said Lou Blessing, former Republican Speaker Pro Tempore and now a lobbyist for energy efficiency companies. Blessing did not get the memo but has seen it. “We could never get them in the room with us. He’s asking us to do something that we tried, and it didn’t work.”
Seitz’s memo concludes by telling opponents that their strategy going forward is up to them.
“You get paid to develop it, not me. But from where I sit, what you have done to date begs the question, ‘How’s that workin’ out for ya?’”
Neil Clark, who now lobbies for wind industry companies and received the Seitz memo, has worked for 34 years in Ohio politics. He said he’s never seen a senator treat people who have testified against the bill or lobbyists with such contempt.
Seitz is no stranger to blunt or sarcastic speech. In January, he compared the mandates to Stalinism. He doesn’t understand why those who got the memo are upset.
“Hopefully they’ll take it to heart and have a more constructive relationship,” Seitz told me. “Someone doing an objective review of what happened would say, ‘Geez, it didn’t work out too good for you folks.’ ”