Senator Zaffirini proposes weatherization, PUC reform

Staff Report

State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) filed legislation on Friday, Feb. 26, to help prevent future winter disasters and hold utility regulators accountable.

“After hearing my constituents’ experiences and listening to the testimony before House and Senate oversight committees,” Zaffirini said. “I believe it’s clear that this was a manmade disaster, and legislative changes are needed to ensure it never happens again.”

Senate Bill 845 would establish minimum weatherization standards which would require power providers to prepare for extreme weather events. The bill would also ensure that providers implement winterization measures including inspections of critical systems and imposing penalties if the providers fail to comply.

“Our vulnerability to winter weather was not a secret—it’s been known for years,” Zaffirini said. “After 2011 the Legislature chose to trust our generators and providers to weatherize, rather than mandate them to do so. That trust clearly was misplaced, with unacceptable and deadly consequences.”

Zaffirini also filed Senate Bill 857 to make membership on the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) an elected position, rather than appointed. Three commissioners would serve staggered six-year terms on the PUC, similar to the Railroad commission of Texas.

“Texans have seen firsthand the need for strong leadership at the PUC,” Zaffirini said. “They deserve the right to hold these leaders accountable for their decisions.”

Zaffirini is collaborating with legislators who are filing other bills, reviewing legislation to co-author and researching other possibilities. She welcomes constituents to contact her via 512/463-0121 or judith.zaffirini@senate.texas.gov to share their own experiences or to provide greater insight.

“Last week’s events were unacceptable,” Zaffirini said. “We will work tirelessly, collaboratively and on a bipartisan basis to investigate and resolve every failure associated with this disaster and to hold those responsible accountable for their negligence. I am confident the Legislature will act swiftly and appropriately.”

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Megan Wehring graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. Wehring is nearing one year at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch, covering all things local. This includes city council meetings, town events, education and human interest stories. Previously, Wehring worked at KTSW FM-89.9 (Texas State University's official radio station) for two consecutive years. She was a news reporter, assistant news director and monthly segment producer during her time at KTSW. Wehring is passionate about the local reporter aspect. With a heart for storytelling, she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are most important to the community.

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