At a time when the rest of state government is looking for ways to reduce spending to hedge against next year’s looming budget shortfall, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is looking at expanding the size and scope of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) by giving the agency a new licensing scheme, a new tax structure, and increased regulatory authority.

This week, the Sunset Commission will meet to consider the future of the regulatory body that oversees the state’s electricity market. Rather than reducing the agency or maintaining the status quo, it appears these officials will consider expanding the PUCT’s administrative powers to detriment of Texas consumers.

According to the Sunset Commission’s staff recommendations, the PUCT could be authorized to create a new licensing scheme and fee structure for the renewal of registrations, certifications, and permits. This would be on top of the $60 million in fees already being paid by power companies, and their customers.

Even more troubling, under the proposal, the PUCT would be able to issue emergency cease-and-desist orders before there is any finding of wrongdoing in a court of law. Even if they were not doing anything improper, companies would have to seriously consider closing up shop and laying-off their workers while fighting in the courts, because administrative penalties would be ratcheted up from $25,000 to $100,000 per day.

It’s interesting that all of these proposed changes are being made without a single example of a problem in the Texas electricity market, which is one of the most competitive in the United States.

Hopefully these are just some ambitious recommendations made by eager bureaucrats, and that those appointed to serve on the Sunset Commission will have cooler heads about implementing the proposed changes that could harm the electricity market for Texas consumers.

NOTE: The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission consists of the following members:

Senate Members
Sen. Glenn Hegar, Jr., Chair
Sen. Juan Hinojosa
Sen. Joan Huffman
Sen. Robert Nichols
Sen. John Whitmire
Mr. Charles McMahen, Public Member

House Members
Rep. Dennis Bonnen, Vice Chair
Rep. Rafael Anchia
Rep. Byron Cook
Rep. Linda Harper-Brown
Rep. Larry Taylor
Mr. Lamont Jefferson, Public Member