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SB 1148, if passed, would make a number of changes to the Water Code, some smaller, and others more significant. The major change is would be to introduce Subchapter K-1 (Section 13.451) dealing with emergency orders which could be issued by the Public Utility Commission. The more minor changes would be to increase the amount of time that rate increases may be suspended from 205 days to 265 days, and to increase disclosure requirements which are placed upon municipally owned utilities (Subsection b-1).
The major change which would allow the Commission to issue emergency orders. Provided the Commission gives notice and opportunity of a hearing the Commission may delegate to the executive director the authority to receive applications, issue emergency orders. It is also noted that emergency orders which would be issued under this subchapter does not vest any rights in a person affected by the order.
SB 1148 is mostly a procedural bill, despite the language of proposed Subchapter 13.451 regarding emergency orders. This process, though not strictly necessary, adds another capability to the Public Utility Commission. It is noteworthy that this section includes a requirement that the Commission provide notice and opportunity for a hearing within a given time period. The extension of delay of rate changes from 205 days to 265 days is not a welcome development. On the other hand, the increased disclosure requirements which would be introduced in Subsection b-1 would be a welcome development in the name of government transparency. Ultimately the positives and negatives of SB 1148 are marginal and balance each other out and as such we are neutral on the bill.