COLUMBUS – State Reps. Rachel Baker (D-Cincinnati) and Daniel Troy (D-Willowick) yesterday held a press conference detailing anti-corruption legislation that puts people first.
Rep. Baker detailed a new piece of legislation that requires the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to order refunds to consumers if a utility charge is deemed to be unlawful by the Ohio Supreme Court. Upon determination that utility charges are unlawful, the bill requires that full refunds be issued within 120 days.
“Since 2009, Ohioans have been denied $1.5 billion in electric refunds. Ohioans deserve to have access to transparent and affordable utilities for their homes and businesses,” said Rep. Baker. “In a time where we are still rebuilding trust with Ohio utility consumers and ratepayers, this commonsense legislation sends a strong message that we value and stand by them.”
This issue stems back to a 1957 case in which the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that utility companies are allowed to keep customers’ payments even if they later rule the charges to be improper or unlawful.
“Something is rotten here in Denmark,” said Rep. Troy, on the need for reform.
This bill will soon receive a bill number and assignment to a House Committee. It is nearly identical to a bipartisan bill that Rep. Troy and former state Rep. Lanese introduced in the last General Assembly.
Rep. Troy spoke on his House Bill (HB) 363, which toughens requirements to serve on the PUCO Nominating Council and to serve as a PUCO Commissioner.
“We need to make some changes. The PUCO is supposed to be a balanced referee and unfortunately, we have seen a lot of regulatory capture over the last few years,” said Rep. Troy.
PUCO is comprised of five commissioners, appointed to rotating, five-year terms by the Governor. One seat on the Commission becomes available each year. Currently, the Governor’s selection is made from a list of names submitted by the 12 member PUCO Nominating Council. The Nominating Council interviews applicants and recommends a list of finalists to the Governor for consideration.
This bill makes the following changes:
- Requires at least one of the Governor’s four appointments to be a bona fide consumer representative selected from a list of nominees submitted by the OCC.
- Prohibits Commissioners from being a representative or employee of, or have any relation to or business transaction with, any entity or entity’s parent, affiliate, or subsidiary that is subject to regulation by the PUCO.
- Replaces the engineering representative on the Nominating Council with a representative of minority communities to be appointed by the Governor.
- Requires the two Nominating Council members appointed by the House Speaker and Senate President who are “members of the public” to be active members of bona fide consumer protection organizations.
- Adds two more members of the public to the Nominating Council, with one member appointed by the Minority Leaders of the House and Senate.
- Requires Nominating Council interviews of Commissioner Candidates to be conducted in open public meetings and not in executive session.
This is the latest legislative initiative for the House Democrats’ People First agenda that’s meant to raise awareness for legislative priorities the people of Ohio overwhelmingly want and deserve.
“In the years following the arrest and eventual guilty verdict of former Republican House Speaker Larry Householder, not one single law has been passed that better protects Ohioans from future public corruption scandals,” said Leader Russo. “Despite lengthy testimony that detailed the damning evidence of Householder’s and FirstEnergy’s crimes, which included a $1.3 billion dollar bailout, $60 million in bribes, and unaccountable damage to the people’s trust in government, zero laws have been passed. It’s time for legislative action; the cost of corruption for Ohioans is too high.”
The press conference is available to view on the Ohio Channel here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please see attached photos of the event.