Eye reached out to State Representative Wyman Duggan about his support of HB 1331 that would restrict municipal electric and gas utilities. It would increase state regulation of municipal electric utilities that serve customers outside of city boundaries. The bills would give the Florida Public Service Commission the power to regulate these utilities’ rates, similar to how private utilities are regulated. The bills emerged after concerns were raised about whether cities are using too much money from the utilities to bolster their general funds.
We wanted to know why a Republican legislature would want to push more regulations on an already highly regulated industry. It makes no sense. Republicans are supposed to reduce regulations – not increase them!
Rep. Duggan replied to our request and said that this bill is really more about the Gainesville Regional Utility that seems to have itself in a messy situation. Eye’s response was – “So we are going to add in more regulation to all the other good guys because there is one bad utility in the bunch? Each municipal utility is unique, with its own set of circumstances, strengths, and weaknesses, and should be evaluated on its own merits.”
Understanding our fear that JEA would be hurt by this bill, he promised he would try to carve out anything that might affect it. But as of today – we are pretty sure that isn’t looking good for our largest city asset when the City of Jacksonville Council Auditor, Kim Taylor, sent a notice today stating the following:
“…while the details are unclear, what is clear in the proposed legislation is that municipal utilities would lose their existing independent authority to set their own utility rates, terms and conditions of service that each municipal utility’s locally-elected officials deem appropriate to meet their local needs.”
If this passes and becomes law, JEA would be subject to increased regulation by the Florida Public Service Commission, which would have the power to regulate JEA’s rates more like private utilities such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, and Tampa Electric Co.
This could potentially result in higher rates for JEA customers outside of the Jacksonville city limits, as the commission would have more oversight over the rates that JEA charges.
The Republican-run State Legislature should consider the impact that increased regulation could have on JEA, a well-run municipal utility and whether it is necessary or appropriate to impose additional regulations on them. It is important to strike a balance between ensuring the public interest is protected and not unduly burdening well-run utilities with unnecessary regulations.
You can also reach Wyman Duggan at: (850) 717-5012 and let him know JEA is a well-run utility and we don’t need our rates going higher. Also call your State Representative who serves your district. You can reach them here: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/FileStores/Web/HouseContent/Approved/ClerksOffice/HouseDirectory.pdf
They just can’t seem to keep their hands off JEA. Can’t turn your back on them for a second, can we?