ADDITIONAL SUNSET ADVISORY COMMISSION DECISIONS
The Sunset Advisory Commission is an independent state agency that periodically reviews other state agencies to determine whether those agencies should remain in existence. After lengthy staff reports and a hearing process, the Commission held its final meeting on January 12, 2011. Several important agencies are up for review this session. Some of the most relevant final recommendations that would affect cities from some of those agencies are listed below. (Other agency’s recommendations were reviewed in the last issue of the Legislative Update.) Much more detailed information on all the agencies is available at www.sunset.state.tx.us.
Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC)
- Authorize the PUC to order restitution to market participants harmed by market power abuse.
- Authorize the PUC to issue emergency cease-and-desist orders. (The PUC could use this authority when a company’s actions would harm the reliability of the electric grid; are fraudulent, hazardous, or create an immediate danger to public safety; or could reasonably be expected to cause immediate harm to consumers in situations in which monetary compensation would be inadequate.)
- PUC should publish additional complaint and enforcement data on its Web site.
(Implementation of this recommendation would increase consumers’ access to complaint and enforcement data online, and provide a more user-friendly format.)
The sunset staff report on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommended transferring water utility rate regulation to the PUC. It is unclear whether the Commission actually voted to approve that recommendation, but it appears that the transfer is likely. More information will be available when the relevant sunset bills are filed.
Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)
- Authorize the TWBD to issue additional bonding authority, but instead of evergreen authority, require the TWDB to return to the Legislature for additional bond authority, as needed.
- Authorize the TWDB to request that the attorney general take legal action to compel a recipient of any of the TWDB’s financial assistance programs to cure or prevent default in payment.
Statewide Water Planning
- Add a representative of each groundwater management area that overlaps with a regional water planning group as a voting member of that regional water planning group, and require that a representative of a groundwater management area represent a groundwater conservation district that overlaps with the regional water planning group.
- Require regional water planning groups to use the desired future conditions in place at the time of adoption of the TWDB’s state water plan in the next water planning cycle.
- Strengthen the public notice requirements for groundwater management area meetings and adoption of desired future conditions and require proof of notice be included in submission of conditions to the TWDB.
- Require groundwater conservation districts to provide a list of agenda items, rather than a summary of proposed action, in public notice of groundwater management area meetings, and require public hearings in groundwater conservation districts only on desired future conditions that are relevant to the groundwater conservation district.
Aquifer Desired Future Conditions
- Require groundwater management areas to document consideration of factors or criteria that comprise a reasonable, desired future condition and to submit that documentation to the TWDB.
- The TCEQ should promote mediation in desired future condition petition cases where appropriate.
Geographic Information Systems
- The TWDB should request a full exemption for the Texas Natural Resources Information System (TNRIS) from the data center services contract at DIR to accommodate its statutory emergency management responsibilities.(The TNRIS is a division within the TWDB that serves Texas agencies and citizens as the centralized information clearinghouse and referral center for geographic information system [GIS] data, including natural resource, census, socioeconomic, and emergency management-related data.)
- Clarify TNRIS duties regarding coordinating and advancing GIS initiatives.
- As part of the state water plan, require the TWDB to evaluate the state’s progress in meeting its water needs.
- Require the TWDB and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), in consultation with the Water Conservation Advisory Council, to develop uniform, detailed gallons per capita daily reporting requirements, with the following exceptions: (1) the TWDB and TCEQ should not require reporting of water use information that is more detailed than an entity’s billing system is capable of producing; and (2) water use reporting applies only to entities required to submit municipal water use data to the TWDB or TCEQ.
- As additional tools and data evolve, the TWDB should continue exploring ways to develop metrics for additional water use sectors and incentivize water conservation efforts.
The recommendations of the Commission will be filed in the form of a “sunset bill” for each agency, and the city-related provisions of each of those bills will be summarized as they are filed in the coming weeks. Sunset decisions relating to other agencies may appear in next week’s edition of the Legislative Update.