April 11, 2019
A bill eliminating public hearings in cases where recipients of violation notices don’t respond to PUC notifications has passed the Texas Senate.
Rep. Kelly Hancock‘s SB 1358 is aimed at ending the often futile hearings that under state statute must be held at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) before the Public Utility Commission of Texas can take any action against a person or business that has been sent a notice of violation(s) — if that party does not respond to the PUC notice.
Under current law the hearing must be held some time before the PUC can decide on official action or penalties, but under SB 1358 the hearings would not be required if the PUC hears nothing from the alleged violator.
The bill also defines when a violation notice is deemed to have been received — 5 days after a notice is mailed, or on the day a registered or certified letter is received.
Analysis says, “The proposed change is also consistent with the Texas Water Code, and the change would align telecommunications and electric proceedings with PUC’s process in water utility proceedings.”
The PUC could still request a hearing in any case by referring the violation to the SOAH.