Tallahassee, Fla. -- AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson issued the following statement today strongly supporting newly announced legislation to strengthen consumer protections in state law for ratepayers receiving services from investor owned utilities:
“On behalf of 2.7 million AARP members statewide, and electric utilities consumers/ratepayers of all generations, AARP Florida strongly supports the legislation announced today. It’s time for Florida to raise the bar on protecting consumers.”
The legislation was announced by four legislative leaders in a Capitol news conference Thursday. Supporting the legislation were: Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater; Rep. Kathleen M. Peters, R-South Pasadena; Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Clearwater; and Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater.
Sen. Latvala’s bill, SB 288, would:
- Require that the state’s Public Counsel, who represents consumers’ interests before the Public Service Commission (PSC),would have to agree to any PSC settlements for cases in which the Public Counsel participates. In 2012, the PSC rejected objections from the Public Counsel and approved a settlement negotiated between FPL and large electric-power users for a $350-million rate increase.
- Prohibit Investor-owned power companies from raising consumers’ rates because of an increase in recorded usage caused by an extension of a billing period. In midsummer 2014, consumers in the Duke Energy service area saw increases in their power bills after the company changed its billing and meter-reading practices and extended a billing cycle.
- Require that persons lobbying any member of the PSC Nominating Counsel would have to register as lobbyists and comply with all lobbying regulations and laws.
- Limit how much investor-owned utility companies could charge customers for deposits.
- Require the Public Service Commission to hold hearings in the service areas of utility companies and live-stream PSC meetings. PSC members would have to complete annual ethics training. The legislation also would forbid “ex parte” communications for all PSC meetings.
“AARP Florida is reaching out to hundreds of thousands of its members who are consumers/ratepayers of Florida’s regulated utilities asking them to voice their support for this important legislation,” Johnson said. “We appreciate the leadership of Sen. Latvala, Rep. Peters, Rep. Sprowls and Rep. Latvala, and AARP will do everything in its power to assist them. AARP strongly encourages other legislators to co-sponsor this legislation and to help turn it into Florida law.”
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.