Energy conservation? Bah. 

Energy conservation? Bah.

Rep. Roy Ragland, R-Marshall, has introduced a bill that would repeal the Energy and Conservation Endorsement Act of 1977.  The law gives the state Public Service Commission the authority to require utility companies to implement energy efficiency and conservation programs. 

Ragland says the public already knows enough about energy efficiency.

“I don't think we need to be taxing people 50 cents a month to advertise something that's on everybody's mind,” he said.

According to John Bethel, director of the PSC, the funding for these programs comes from a monthly tax added to consumers' utility bills that ranges from 26 to 50 cents depending on location.

Bethel says that only a small portion — less than $1 million out of $18 million raised over two years — goes to advertising.  The rest goes toward education, training and incentives aimed at making homes, businesses and schools more energy efficient.  Bethel says the repeal of the act would certainly make it more difficult to promote conservation and energy efficiency.

“These programs have many benefits,” he says.  “Conservation reduces peak demand and lowers costs for customers, not to mention the fact that it can eliminate the need for utilities to acquire additional supplies of electricity or to build additional power plants.” 

Ragland says he would be for replacing the current law with another one that targeted good programs. According to Bethel, that's what the PSC will do when the programs come up for review in April. Bethel said Ragland's bill would basically pull the rug out from under the process.

Though the act was passed in 1977, the PSC did not put it into effect until 2007.  Once the bill passed, energy prices dropped sharply and it was no longer seen as a cost-efficient measure. Ragland cites the 30-year delay as a reason to repeal the act.


Smoker's friend

State Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway has been leading the fight against a tobacco tax to pay for health programs. Yes, in response to someone who asked, he received campaign contributions from tobacco companies — $1,000 from Philip Morris, $2,000 from Reynolds and $500 from U.S. Tobacco.


Dirty pictures

Bad weather delayed consideration Tuesday of Rep. Donna Hutchinson's latest legislation to further criminalize photographers who take photos, even in public, of naughty regions of the human body. In 2007, she passed legislation making a misdemeanors of so-called upskirt and down-blouse photos taken without permission. Example: A telephoto shot of a leaping cheerleader's underpants.

This year, Hutchinson wants to make it a crime to snap such a photo by cellphone or post it on the Internet without consent. Hutchinson, who lives in Bella Vista, says there's been a rash of teen-age boys in her district sneaking into girls' locker rooms with cell phones to snap shots to send to friends.


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