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Griffith: Cap-and-trade is key issue
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Del. Morgan Griffith

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

(Editor's note: This is the second of three profiles on the candidates in the 9th House District election Nov. 2. On Thursday, independent candidate Jeremiah Heaton will be featured.)

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher's position on cap-and-trade emissions legislation shows he has been in Washington too long, says one of his opponents in the Nov. 2 election.

"We need new ideas and new energy, a more conservative profile," said Del. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, a 17-year veteran of the state legislature who is challenging Boucher, a 28-year congressman, and independent Jeremiah Heaton of Abingdon.

"I think ... 28 years on any job" may be too long, Griffith, 52, said in a recent interview. "If you don't have the energy levels to continue to talk about the issues, (and are) complacent to go along, it's time to go. The legislative process is high energy. You've got to talk to people. ... Sometimes you have to stand up and fight."�

The cap-and-trade clean emissions legislation, which was approved by the House of Representatives and then stalled in the Senate, is the key issue in the 9th District campaign, Griffith said.

Boucher, D-Abingdon, has said that in 2007, the Supreme Court declared that greenhouse gases are pollutants, which meant they had to be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The coal industry and coal-fired utilities asked him to write laws to protect it and he agreed, he said.

The resulting legislation will eliminate 56,000 jobs and cost the average household a couple of hundred dollars or more a year in higher electric bills, Griffith said.

Boucher disputes both figures. No coal industry jobs will be lost and the cost to average households in this region would be just pennies a day due to changes in the costs of other energies, such as electricity and coal, he said this week, adding that industries will get allowances so their costs should not rise.

Griffith disagrees.

"It (cap-and-trade bill) makes NAFTA look like peanuts. It will raise the costs of every manufacturing company in the country. It will hit the coalfields first. Then we'll see companies that can't make it" start to close, he said.

"It is one of the worst concepts to come down the line," he said of the bill. "The U.S. is acting unilaterally to reduce carbon fuels and raising costs of fuels in the United States in hopes of stumbling across an alternative energy. That's fine, but it should not kill business in the process" as companies move jobs overseas "for, I think, no gain."�

If elected, Griffith said his top priority will be creating jobs. That includes killing cap-and-trade legislation as well as targeting unnecessary regulations that burden business, he said. "We passed so many regulations in the past 10 to 15 years (that) it encouraged businesses to go overseas," he said.

He supports a proposal that any new regulation that would cost $100 million or more across the United States go before Congress before it becomes a law. Also, a cost-benefit analysis needs to be done on proposals, Griffith said.

Congress could take lessons from Virginia on how to operate effectively, Griffith said. As House majority leader, Griffith said he and other legislators adopted laws and policies that resulted in Virginia consistently ranking as the best place in the nation to do business.

He said he thinks the House of Representatives should adopt a germaneness rule, which requires that amendments to a bill must relate to its original purpose. Caps should be placed on franking privileges, which allow legislators to send job-related mail without paying postage, and campaign finance laws should be simplified, he said.

Griffith noted that the original finance reform bill, written in the Great Depression, was less than 100 pages. Yet the latest finance reform bill was about 2,300 pages, he said.

"It's no wonder nobody knows exactly what's going on and what to do," he said. "You can't solve everything by putting it in the code. You have to hope the system will work, as it has in most circumstances."�

Griffith opposed the health care reform bill, preferring that smaller fixes be enacted. For instance, he wants to allow the sale of insurance across state lines to have a larger pool of insured people, which would spread out and lower costs. He also favors having people join mutual associations that are controlled by their members.

"The key is we can't have government taking over the health care industry," he said.

He said he favors enforcing anti-dumping laws and would review all the nation's trade agreements.

Griffith does not favor setting a deadline for the United States to leave Afghanistan. "We need to maintain some involvement in Afghanistan, or the Taliban will come back (and) use it as a base," he said. He added that he supports American troops and "giving them every tool" to fulfill that battle strategy.

On the subject of terrorism, Griffith said, "lots of bad guys are coming across our borders in the South." He said the country needs to build "a real fence" on its southern border similar to one built in Israel that has sensors to detect motion, which then is checked out.

Also, "we need to look at how secure the northern borders are. It's a dangerous world, and we have to adjust," he said.

If elected, Griffith said he would consider having office staff in the Martinsville area one to two days a week, and he would visit on a regular basis.

He said he would ask to be appointed to the House Energy and Commerce Committee because it deals with coal issues, and the House Agriculture Committee because agriculture is important to the district. Also, he would like to serve on the House Judiciary Committee but added that is not likely.

The 9th District includes Patrick County and western Henry County. Griffith expects it to grow to the east when redistricting occurs because state officials have estimated it will need 67,000 more people to meet population requirements.

Boucher has criticized the fact that Griffith lives in the 6th District, not the 9th, despite the fact that his residency is constitutional.

Griffith responded that he lives less than a foot from the 9th District, and he attended Emory & Henry College in that district. He added that he and Boucher each live within about 50 percent of the population of the 9th District.

"The key is working hard and paying attention to every part of the district," as Griffith said he has done in the House of Delegates. "Boucher has been in Washington for 28 years. He spends a lot of time there. If his theory is correct, he's more in tune with Washington than Henry County, Bassett or Fieldale."�


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