S.B. No. 409
relating to the continuation and functions of the Office of Public
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 13.002, Utilities Code, is amended to
read as follows:
Sec. 13.002. APPLICATION OF SUNSET ACT. The Office of
Public Utility Counsel is subject to Chapter 325, Government Code
(Texas Sunset Act). Unless continued in existence as provided by
that chapter, the office is abolished and this chapter expires
September 1, 2011 [
SECTION 2. Subchapter A, Chapter 13, Utilities Code, is
amended by adding Sections 13.004 through 13.007 to read as
Sec. 13.004. ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURES.
(a) The counsellor shall develop and implement a policy to
encourage the use of appropriate alternative dispute resolution
procedures under Chapter 2009, Government Code, to assist in the
resolution of internal disputes under the office's jurisdiction.
(b) The office's procedures relating to alternative dispute
resolution must conform, to the extent possible, to any model
guidelines issued by the State Office of Administrative Hearings
for the use of alternative dispute resolution by state agencies.
(c) The counsellor shall designate a trained person to:
(1) coordinate the implementation of the policy
adopted under Subsection (a);
(2) serve as a resource for any training needed to
implement the procedures for alternative dispute resolution; and
(3) collect data concerning the effectiveness of those
procedures, as implemented by the office.
Sec. 13.005. COMPLAINTS. (a) The office shall maintain a
system to promptly and efficiently act on complaints filed with the
office that the office has the authority to resolve. The office
shall maintain information about parties to the complaint, the
subject matter of the complaint, a summary of the results of the
review or investigation of the complaint, and its disposition.
(b) The office shall make information available describing
its procedures for complaint investigation and resolution.
(c) The office shall periodically notify the complaint
parties of the status of the complaint until final disposition.
Sec. 13.006. TECHNOLOGY POLICY. The counsellor shall
implement a policy requiring the office to use appropriate
technological solutions to improve the office's ability to perform
its functions. The policy must ensure that the public is able to
interact with the office on the Internet.
Sec. 13.007. MANAGEMENT AUDIT. (a) The state auditor, in
coordination with the Legislative Budget Board, shall conduct a
management audit of the office to evaluate the office's performance
measures to determine the accuracy of calculations and whether the
measures accurately depict the impact of the office. The audit must
include an estimation of savings to residential and small
commercial consumers directly attributable to office participation
(b) The state auditor must complete the audit required by
this section and deliver a report on the audit to the governor,
lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house of representatives
not later than August 1, 2006.
(c) This section expires September 1, 2006.
SECTION 3. Section 13.023, Utilities Code, is amended by
amending Subsection (a) and by adding Subsection (c) to read as
(a) It is a ground for removal from office if the
(1) does not have at the time of taking office
[ appointment] or maintain during service as counsellor the
qualifications required by Section 13.022;
(2) is ineligible for service as counsellor under
[ violates a prohibition provided by] Section 13.022, 13.042, or
(3) cannot discharge the counsellor's duties for a
substantial part of the term for which the counsellor is appointed
because of illness or disability.
(c) If an employee has knowledge that a potential ground for
removal of the counsellor exists, the employee shall notify the
next highest ranking employee of the office, other than the
counsellor, who shall then notify the governor and the attorney
general that a potential ground for removal exists.
SECTION 4. Section 13.042, Utilities Code, is amended to
read as follows:
Sec. 13.042. CONFLICT OF INTEREST [ RELATIONSHIP WITH TRADE
ASSOCIATION]. (a) In this section, "Texas trade association"
means a cooperative and voluntarily joined statewide association of
business or professional competitors in this state designed to
assist its members and its industry or profession in dealing with
mutual business or professional problems and in promoting their
(b) A person may not serve as counsellor or be an employee of
the office employed in a "bona fide executive, administrative, or
professional capacity," as that phrase is used for purposes of
establishing an exemption to the overtime provisions of the federal
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. Section 201 et seq.)
[ who is exempt from the state's position classification plan or is
compensated at or above the amount prescribed by the General
Appropriations Act for step 1, salary group 17, of the position
classification salary schedule] if the person is:
(1) an officer, employee, or paid consultant of a
Texas trade association in the field of utilities; or
(2) the spouse of an officer, manager, or paid
consultant of a Texas trade association in the field of utilities.
(c) A person may not serve as counsellor or act as the
general counsel to the office if the person is required to register
as a lobbyist under Chapter 305, Government Code, because of the
person's activities for compensation on behalf of a profession
related to the operation of the office.
SECTION 5. Section 13.063, Utilities Code, is amended to
read as follows:
Sec. 13.063. ANNUAL REPORTS [ REPORT]. (a) The office
shall prepare annually a complete and detailed written report
accounting for all funds received and disbursed by the office
during the preceding fiscal year. The annual report must meet the
reporting requirements applicable to financial reporting in the
General Appropriations Act.
(b) The office shall prepare annually a report on the
office's activities during the preceding year and submit the report
to the standing legislative committees that have jurisdiction over
the office, the house appropriations committee, the senate finance
committee, and the Sunset Advisory Commission. At a minimum, the
report must include:
(1) a list of the types of activities conducted by the
office and the time spent by the office on each activity;
(2) the number of hours billed by the office for
representing residential or small commercial consumers in
(3) the number of staff positions and the type of work
performed by each position; and
(4) the office's rate of success in representing
residential or small commercial consumers in appealing commission
SECTION 6. Subchapter D, Chapter 13, Utilities Code, is
amended by adding Section 13.064 to read as follows:
Sec. 13.064. PUBLIC HEARING. (a) The office annually
shall conduct a public hearing to assist the office in developing a
plan of priorities and to give the public, including residential
and small commercial consumers, an opportunity to comment on the
office's functions and effectiveness.
(b) A public hearing held under this section is not subject
to Chapter 551, Government Code.
(c) The office shall file notice of a public hearing held
under this section with the secretary of state for publication in
the Texas Register.
SECTION 7. Subsection (c), Section 13.022, Utilities Code,
SECTION 8. The change in law made by this Act relating to
qualifications and eligibility to serve as public utility counsel
or to be employed with the Office of Public Utility Counsel applies
only to a counsellor or employee appointed or employed after the
effective date of this Act. A counsellor or employee of the Office
of Public Utility Counsel who is serving or employed on the
effective date of this Act is governed by the law as it existed
immediately before the effective date of this Act, and the former
law is continued in effect for that purpose.
SECTION 9. This Act takes effect September 1, 2005.
President of the Senate Speaker of the House
I hereby certify that S.B. No. 409 passed the Senate on
May 3, 2005, by the following vote: Yeas 31, Nays 0;
May 25, 2005, Senate refused to concur in House amendments and
requested appointment of Conference Committee; May 27, 2005, House
granted request of the Senate; May 29, 2005, Senate adopted
Conference Committee Report by the following vote: Yeas 31,
Secretary of the Senate
I hereby certify that S.B. No. 409 passed the House, with
amendments, on May 23, 2005, by a non-record vote; May 27, 2005,
House granted request of the Senate for appointment of Conference
Committee; May 29, 2005, House adopted Conference Committee Report
by a non-record vote.
Chief Clerk of the House