83R169 JJT-D
 
  By: Hilderbran H.B. No. 3382
 
 
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
  relating to powers and duties of the Office of Public Utility
  Counsel to represent residential and small commercial consumers in
  certain water or sewer utility service matters before the Texas
  Commission on Environmental Quality.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Section 5.273(a), Water Code, is amended to read
  as follows:
         (a)  The counsel shall represent the public interest and be a
  party to all proceedings before the commission, other than a
  proceeding under Chapter 13.
         SECTION 2.  Subchapter B, Chapter 13, Water Code, is amended
  by adding Section 13.017 to read as follows:
         Sec. 13.017.  OFFICE OF PUBLIC UTILITY COUNSEL; POWERS AND
  DUTIES.  (a)  In this section, "counsellor" and "office" have the
  meanings assigned by Section 11.003, Utilities Code.
         (b)  The independent Office of Public Utility Counsel
  represents the interests of residential and small commercial
  consumers under this chapter. The office:
               (1)  shall assess the effect of utility rate changes
  and other regulatory actions on residential consumers in this
  state;
               (2)  shall advocate in the office's own name a position
  determined by the counsellor to be most advantageous to a
  substantial number of residential consumers;
               (3)  may appear or intervene, as a party or otherwise,
  as a matter of right on behalf of:
                     (A)  residential consumers, as a class, in any
  proceeding before the commission, including an alternative dispute
  resolution proceeding; and
                     (B)  small commercial consumers, as a class, in
  any proceeding in which the counsellor determines that small
  commercial consumers are in need of representation, including an
  alternative dispute resolution proceeding;
               (4)  may initiate or intervene as a matter of right or
  otherwise appear in a judicial proceeding:
                     (A)  that involves an action taken by an
  administrative agency in a proceeding, including an alternative
  dispute resolution proceeding, in which the counsellor is
  authorized to appear; or
                     (B)  in which the counsellor determines that
  residential consumers or small commercial consumers are in need of
  representation;
               (5)  is entitled to the same access as a party, other
  than commission staff, to records gathered by the commission under
  Section 13.133;
               (6)  is entitled to discovery of any nonprivileged
  matter that is relevant to the subject matter of a proceeding or
  petition before the commission;
               (7)  may represent an individual residential or small
  commercial consumer with respect to the consumer's disputed
  complaint concerning retail utility services that is unresolved
  before the commission;
               (8)  may recommend legislation to the legislature that
  the office determines would positively affect the interests of
  residential and small commercial consumers; and
               (9)  may conduct customer outreach and education
  programs for residential and small commercial consumers.
         (c)  This section does not:
               (1)  affect a duty the office is required to perform
  under other law; or
               (2)  limit the authority of the commission to represent
  residential or small commercial consumers.
         (d)  The appearance of the counsellor in a proceeding does
  not preclude the appearance of other parties on behalf of
  residential or small commercial consumers. The counsellor may not
  be grouped with any other party.
         SECTION 3.  (a) Not later than January 1, 2014, the
  following are transferred from the Office of Public Interest
  Counsel to the Office of Public Utility Counsel:
               (1)  the powers, duties, functions, programs, and
  activities of the Office of Public Interest Counsel relating to
  water and sewer services regulated under Chapter 13, Water Code;
               (2)  all obligations and contracts of the Office of
  Public Interest Counsel that are related to a power, duty,
  function, program, or activity transferred under this subsection;
  and
               (3)  all property and records in the custody of the
  Office of Public Interest Counsel that are related to a power, duty,
  function, program, or activity transferred under this subsection
  and all funds appropriated by the legislature for that power, duty,
  function, program, or activity.
         (b)  A rule or form adopted by the Office of Public Interest
  Counsel that relates to a power, duty, function, program, or
  activity transferred under Subsection (a) of this section is a rule
  or form of the Office of Public Utility Counsel and remains in
  effect until altered by the Office of Public Utility Counsel.
         (c)  A reference in law to the Office of Public Interest
  Counsel that relates to a power, duty, function, program, or
  activity transferred under Subsection (a) of this section means the
  Office of Public Utility Counsel.
         SECTION 4.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2013.