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Relating to electricity service provided by certain municipally owned utilities.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
SB 566 stipulates that if a qualified ratepayer (or group of ratepayers) believes a municipally owned utility providing service to the Capitol complex is overcharging them, they may petition to have the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) investigate and determine if they are being charged a rate similarly situated customers in areas of the state that are deregulated are charged. If it is determined that these customers are being overcharged, then the PUC shall adjust the rate accordingly.
Municipally owned utilities enjoy a state-sanctioned monopoly, thus their ratepayers do not have a choice to shop around for better service and lower rates. Most municipal utilities have an independent board to consider customer appeals. In the specific case of Austin Energy, the body that is responsible for setting rates is also responsible for hearing appeals. This inherent conflict of interest is somewhat akin to the prosecutor also being the judge in a criminal case. Austin Energy ratepayers are locked into a monopoly service provider with no effective recourse to appeal the rates they are charged.
SB 566 supports limited government and individual liberty by creating a process for Austin Energy customers to appeal their rates to an independent and more objective arbiter of the facts. For this these reasons, Texas Action supports SB 566.