2013 Indiana General Assembly Bill Watch List

Sat, 01/26/2013 - 17:33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the utility bills CAC supported or opposed in the 2013 Indiana General Assembly:

 

Take Action - contact your legislators about these bills!

 

SB560: Utility transmission

Authors: Sen. Brandt Hershman (R), Sen. Jim Merritt (R), Sen. Thomas Wyss (R)

Sponsors: Rep. Eric Koch (R), Rep. Heath VanNatter (R), Rep. Kreg Battles (D), Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh (D)

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Pence

Votes:

Position: CAC opposes this bill

Description: This bill will virtually allow Indiana electric and natural gas to raise your rates automatically, and at the same time deregulate most of their monopoly revenue and profits.

  • The Indiana utilities are asking your elected officials for a raise, and they want it to come from your checkbook.
  • Over the last ten years, the average monthly electric bill of a regulated utility in Indiana has increased over 49% while the average monthly gas bill has increased as high as 33%.
  • Much of the increase in monthly bills is attributable to trackers, or automatic rate adjustments.

Trackers allow utilities to raise rates when costs go up in some areas while never having to lower rates when costs go down in other areas.

SB560 gives the utilities a tracker for transmission and distribution.  This gives them excessive profit to do something they are supposed to be doing anyway: provide reliable electric and gas service. 

Maintaining transmission and distribution wires and pipelines is something the utilities are required by law to do. These costs are well understood, can easily be determined, and do not fluctuate (like fuel costs do).  Traditionally, trackers have been allowed only for costs that are largely outside the control of the utility and experience significant price volatility. 

Transmission and distribution costs should not be tracked.  Instead, the utilities should be required to go to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) and file a rate case.  This way they will have to open up their books and show not only where their costs have gone up, but also where their costs have gone down.

Under current regulations, it is well-established that the utility's investors, not its customers, must put up the capital necessary for the utility to fulfill its legal obligation to provide reliable service. Trackers shift the burden of cost and risk of running a monopoly utility company from voluntary investors to captive ratepayers.

SB560 also contains “self-implemented rate-making,” the ability for the utilities to raise base rates virtually automatically.

This is something long-sought by the utilities.  After utilities file for an increase in base rates (a rate case), they are required to wait until the IURC issues a final order indicating to what level the utilities are allowed to raise their rates.  This can take as long as a year or two because of the large amount of information involved in a rate case and the overwhelming workload of the IURC.

SB560 will allow the utilities to increase your rates up to 75% of the rate hike they are asking for if the IURC has not issued an order after 300 days, less than a year.

 

SB510: Substitute natural gas contracts (companion to HB1515)

Authors: Sen. Doug Eckerty (R), Sen. Phil Boots (R), Sen. Jim Banks (R), Sen. Ron Grooms (R), Sen. Travis Holdman (R), Sen. Dennis Kruse (R), Sen. Jean Leising (R), Sen. Scott Schneider (R), Sen. Jim Smith (R), Sen. Brent Steele (R), Sen. Greg Walker (R), Sen. Brent Waltz (R), Sen. Randy Head (R), Sen. Sue Landske (R), Sen. Michael Young (R), Sen. Pete Miller (R), Sen. Mark Stoops (D), Sen. Richard Young (D), Sen. Lonnie Randolph (D), Sen. Jim Arnold (D), Sen. Tim Skinner (D), Sen. Jean Breaux (D)

Sponsors: Rep. Suzanne Crouch (R), Rep. Dan Leonard (R), Rep. Steven Braun (R), Rep. Ed DeLaney (D)

Status: SB510 died in the House

HB1515: Substitute natural gas contracts (companion to SB510)

Author: Rep. Suzanne Crouch (R), Rep. Dan Leonard (R), Rep. Steven Braun (R), Rep. Ed DeLaney (D)

Status: HB1515 died in the House Utilities and Energy Committee

SB494: Substitute natural gas

Authors: Sen. Ryan Mishler (R)Sen. Brandt Hershman (R), Sen. Pat Miller (R), Sen. Scott Schneider (R), Sen. Lindel Hume (D), Sen. Earline Rogers (D)

Sponsors: Rep. Tim Brown (R), Rep. Eric Turner (R), Rep. Kathleen Heuer (R), Rep. David Niezgodski (D)

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Pence

Votes on SB510:

Votes on SB494:

Position: CAC supports these bills

Description: The original language in SB510 promised to protect consumers from unreasonable and excessive charges for substitute natural gas (SNG) from the proposed Indiana Gasification/Leucadia coal-to-gas plant in Rockport, IN.

In November, 2011 the IURC approved a 30-year contract between the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) and Indiana Gasification, LLC, a subsidiary of Leucadia National Corporation (an out-of-state hedge fund).  This contract forces Indiana ratepayers to pay $7.8 billion over the next 30 years for the syngas generated by the proposed Rockport/Spencer County coal-to-gas plant.  The contract was signed as a result of the passage of SB423 in 2009.

SB423 removed all regulatory oversight of the charges for the syngas coming from the proposed Rockport plant.  It also stipulated that the contract must include a guarantee of savings for ratepayers.  However, according to the approved contract, ratepayers will have to wait 30 years to learn whether or not this was a good deal.

On 4-10-13, SB510 was amended in such a way that made it completely ineffective at protecting ratepayers.  On 4-26-13, on the last day of the session, SB494 was amended with what is known as a "strip and insert."   The original language in SB494 was stripped out and the good consumer protection language that we wanted from SB510 (as it passed out of the House Utility Committee and before it was amended in the House) was inserted into SB494.

SB494 restores some regulatory oversight by defining what is meant by a "guarantee of savings" to ratepayers and requiring the IURC to ensure that ratepayers are provided an actual guarantee of savings from this project.

Click here for more on the proposed Indiana Gasification/Leucadia Rockport coal-to-gas plant

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This is a bill aimed at strengthening the CHOICE Home Care program:

 

HB1428: Home and community based services and brain injury services

Authors: Rep. Tom Saunders (R), Rep. Charlie Brown (D), Rep. Ron Bacon (R)

Status: Died in the House Public Health Committee

Position: CAC supports this bill

Digest: Home and community based services and brain injury services. Establishes the division of brain injury and cognitive rehabilitative services (division) within the office of the secretary of family and social services and sets forth the division's duties. Establishes the office of client rights and protections within the division. Establishes the program and policy review advisory committee. Requires Medicaid to include traumatic brain injury services. Requires the office of Medicaid policy and planning to apply to the United States Department of Health and Human Services for a Medicaid waiver to provide brain injury services to individuals with traumatic brain injuries and other acquired brain injuries. Requires the division of aging to meet specified requirements in the distribution of funds for the community and home options to institutional care for the elderly and disabled program (CHOICE) to area agencies on aging. Specifies that funds that are appropriated to CHOICE: (1) may not be used as a match for Medicaid waiver services or for any other purpose; and (2) may not revert to the state general fund. Specifies funds available for home and community based long term care services (HCBS). Requires the division of aging to provide HCBS statewide and specifies that the services available must include the services included in the program on January 1, 2013. Specifies that an individual who is eligible for HCBS must receive services specified in a care plan that has been agreed to by the individual unless the individual specifies in writing that the individual would like to receive care in a nursing facility or institutional setting. Requires the office of the secretary to eliminate the waiting list of eligible individuals seeking HCBS and requires an individual who was on the waiting list on July 1, 2013, to begin receiving HCBS by July 1, 2014. Requires an eligible individual to receive HCBS services within 29 days after a determination of eligibility. Allows an area agency on aging to make the initial eligibility determination for specified programs. Specifies conditions that must be met before an individual may be transitioned from HCBS to a nursing facility or institutional care. Requires caregiver support in specified circumstances. Requires the division of aging to establish: (1) an independent provider of home and community based services training and certification program; (2) a statewide registry of independent HCBS providers; (3) fiscal intermediary services to assist self-directed care individuals; and (4) a self-directed care telephone hotline.

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Yes, there's more...

2013 Indiana General Assembly Bill Watch List continued...
 

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