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TribBlog: 13 Months of Sunset

For a certain kind of animal — i.e., the Policy Wonk — this is a gift: Sunset reports on insurance and utility regulators and on the capital city's transportation authority hit the internet this morning.

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For a certain kind of animal — i.e., the Policy Wonk — this is a gift: Sunset reports on insurance and utility regulators and on the capital city's transportation authority hit the internet this morning. These are the staff recommendations from Sunset Advisory Commission on several agencies: Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Texas Department of Insurance and the Office of Public Insurance Counsel;Division of Workers’ Compensation – Texas Department of Insurance and the Office of Injured Employee Counsel; and the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Office of Public Utility Counsel. This is a step on the journey: the full commission will have a look, make recommendations to the Legislature, which will then file bills, bicker, bargain and cogitate and then vote on all of this stuff in a year or so, when they're in session.

Still, this is an important step, and some of the news is what's not in the reports. For instance, this gem from the report on the state's utility regulators: "This recommendation would postpone the staff recommendation and the Sunset Commission’s decision to continue PUC as a separate agency or to merge its programs with other utility regulatory programs until completion of this biennium’s Sunset reviews of [the Texas Railroad Commission] and [the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality]. Postponement would permit a more complete evaluation of merger options during those reviews."

That's a fight. Utility companies and oil companies like the current mode, where their regulators are THEIR regulators and nobody else's. And it involves the three elected Railroad Commissioners, too. It's probably worth noting that two of them — Elizabeth Ames Jones and Michael Williams — were in the running for the U.S. Senate seat that Kay Bailey Hutchison decided to keep, and that two of the other prospects — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Florence Shapiro — will have some say over the fate of their agency. The staff report also notes seven previous failed attempts to merge PUC with other agencies.

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