House Ways & Means Committee Prints Bill to Create Consumer Utility Advocate Office, Aims to Fix State's Broken Utility System
BOISE, Idaho, March 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Idahoans 50 and older are sick of soaring utility rates and they are looking to the Statehouse for help. Today, just as the session wraps up and campaign season begins, Idaho's most powerful voting demographic got a little good news and a step forward on the issue. The House Ways and Means Committee voted to print a bill creating an AARP-backed utility watchdog in the state. The measure was sponsored by Representative Brian Cronin (D-Boise).
The watchdog would come in the form of a Consumer Utility Advocate Office whose charge is to represent consumers when utility companies press for higher utility bills and other regulatory issues that may carry an adverse impact on Idahoans. Currently, Idaho is the only state in the West and one of only a handful in the nation lacking such an office. According to a recent AARP survey, 68 percent of Idaho's 50+ support the creation of the watchdog.
"It's never too late in a legislative session for good news – we know this is just a print hearing and the bill won't get a hearing, but it's a critical step toward changing the utility game and helping consumers fight unfair rate hikes, which many are buckling under," said Angela Cortez, interim State Director for AARP Idaho. "AARP commends Rep. Cronin for his work on this issue and we thank those members of the House Ways and Means Committee who moved it forward."
The news comes on the heels of a 2012 AARP survey of Idahoans 50+ finding over 80 percent report difficulty paying their utility bills as most of the state's electric providers won rate hike cases before the Public Utilities Commission. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they didn't think their elected officials were doing enough to help Idahoans affected by rising energy costs, while 61 percent felt the interest of Idaho residential customers weren't represented and taken into consideration in utility rate hike cases in the state.
"Our members across the state have made one thing very clear to us; they need a better and bigger hand in the fight against unfair utility rate hikes – and a utility consumer advocate office would make that happen," Cortez said. "It's time to level the utility playing field in Idaho. Though this bill won't pass this session, we'll work across the state with our members, the public and other stakeholders, raising the issue over election season, to put the issue front and center for lawmakers next session."
The full AARP utility survey of Idahoans 50+ can be found here: http://bit.ly/wPuymH.
AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with over 180,000 members.
SOURCE AARP Idaho