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General Assembly 2014

Archived material from 2014 Campaign to enact legislation on Utility Reselling

12/1/14 Ohio House Public Utility Committee announces hearings on submetering/utility reselling bills on Tuesday. "We will be having a second hearing (Pro/Opp/IP) on the following H.B. 422 Foley & Blair, H.B. 545 Gonzales, H.B. 568 McGregor, H.B. 662 Duffey/McGregor. Rather than presenting testimony to any one particular bill, proponents, opponents and interested parties may discuss any issue or proposal in any of the bills.  billing...all the other proposals seek to "regulate" the practice of pro rating common area utility costs back to tenants.
11/20/14: In Sponsor testimony on HB 662, Rep. Duffey made the following points: 

His proposal will cap the price that submetering companies can charge customers at no more than the maximum rate a family in a single-family home can be charged by an incumbent utility.
the proposal also requires disclosure of submetering costs to potential tenants prior to signing a lease, the sponsor said. 
The bill would create a dispute resolution and arbitration mechanism at the PUCO for consumers who believe they have been charged more than the regulated rate.

11/17/14 Over the summer Rep. Duffey from Columbus has been meeting with interested parties and has developed a compromise bill (described below). Because there are some problematic features to the Duffey proposal, advocates are meeting later this week...or early next week to decide how to approach the hearings that are expected. As indicated in the article (below) this proposal will most likely die in the Ohio House as the term ends in December. However this proposal may serve as a model for future action next year.

The Duffey-McGregor bill includes these provisions: 
• Submeter companies would be barred from selling utilities for more than the regulated prices in the community where a property is located.
• Because the companies are buying the resources in bulk for much less than the regulated prices, they would be allowed to make a profit on the markup between their actual cost and the regulated prices.
• Submeter companies would be required to disclose the utility rates that they are charging and show how this compares with regulated rates. The co-sponsors hope that this will create an incentive for property owners to charge less and compete with one another to offer tenants the best deals.
• Charges for common areas, such as hallway lighting and swimming-pool water, would have to be actual costs with no markup.
• Consumers could file complaints about submeter companies with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Under current law, complaints go to the Ohio attorney general’s office. Link

6/26/14 Speaker Batchelder announced today: “It is with a very heavy heart that I must acknowledge the passing of State Representative Terry Blair. Representative Blair was not only an outstanding local leader to his community throughout his decades of public service in Montgomery County, but he was a remarkable chairman and distinguished member of the Ohio House of Representatives." Blair was a principal co sponsor of House Bill 422. 
6/20/14 Mike Smalz at Ohio Poverty Law Center Housing Task Force meeting said that a new draft bill is being prepared for review by "the advocates". The new draft bill will try to incorporate some of the ideas raised in competing bills submitted by House members over the past 2 weeks. Examples of issues addressed in the new draft include

1. Permitting landlords to use their "buying power" purchase utilities at a discount and resell them at a market rate. Unclear if landlords would be free to pocket the difference or share the difference with tenants. Even if landlords pocket the difference between wholesale and retail...tenants would be paying the same rate as other retail customers (eg. homeowners.)
2. Establish control over RUBS (or estimated) billing systems. The consumer/housing advocates feel strongly that unless estimated billing systems are outlawed, landlords will just shift from submetering to estimated systems. Advocates think that the submetering companies could support efforts to block estimated systems. Blocking estimated systems would also block the practice of some landlords who split the cost of common area utilities among the tenants in a property. In some cases tenants pay a metered utility bill AND an estimated bill for common area utilities.
3. There may be some new language to address the problem of submetering water (which is not a regulated utility in Ohio).

It is not clear if there's enough time in the legislative calendar to get consensus, but work done this year could lay the foundation for consensus next year.

6/1/14 The Sausage Making Continues
Two bills are now submitted and scheduled for sponsor testimony next week. Last week we reported on Rep Ann Gonzales dropped HB 545 which basically mirrors the “industry” bill. This week, Rep McGregor introduced HB 568 which has some of the elements originally proposed by the advocates, but which would direct the PUCO to adopt rules setting a maximum cap on administrative fees and a prohibition against any other charges beyond the actual utility rate being passed on to the tenants. Mike Smalz at Ohio Poverty Law Center suggests that none of the existing bills or other legislation is going to move any further in the legislative process before the legislature breaks for its summer recess. However, House Speaker Batchelder supports submetering legislation and wants to get legislation passed this year. Any final action on this legislation would almost certainly have to take place during the post-election lame-duck session. However, there is still a lot of work to do in harmonizing the differences among the interest groups. 

5/6/14 Utility reselling legislation not dead (yet). Ohio House members are holding an "interested parties" meeting this Thursday to hear from advocates and opponents. When the industry bill (offered in substitute for the advocate's bill) was pulled from the Governor's Budget Reconciliation bill 2 weeks ago, House leaders promised to create a work group of Reps who could craft a new proposal. To the public this seems like "sausage making"...but could be progress. 

4/27/14 Is the utility reselling proposal dead for this session? With no news about the working group and the legislative session rushing forward to the May 6th primaries...maybe the only action this year will be working on a consensus proposal over the summer. Ohio Poverty Law Center has provided a ton of info to legislators this past week. 

4/9/14 Topsy Turvey in the State House.
House Bill 422 which would have regulated utility reselling in Ohio hit a roadblock late last week when Nationwide Energy Partners (a utility reselling company) introduced an industry friendly version that was immediately adopted by the House majority and put into the fast moving HB483 (Budget amendments) which was slated to be voted out of the house by Wednesday. 
The substitute bill was never presented to a committee and includes some objectional change including not covering water reselling; permitting RUBS billing of common area utilities. Here's the story
Then yesterday (April 8th), House leadership pulled the substitute bill out of HB 483 and asked a "working group" of Reps to come up with a consensus bill. Reps Foley and Blair (who sponsored HB422) will be among the 5 members of the working group. Here's the update
4/6/14: House Bill 422 is still stalled in the Ohio House Committee on Public Utilities, but negotiations are underway among proponents, an industry entity, and the chairman to find a way forward.

3/19/14: Ohio House Committee on Public Utilities heard sponsor testimony on House bill 422 (utility reselling) Dan Gearino of the Columbus Dispatch called the committee members' responses as skeptical.
3/6/14: Proponents held a good meeting in Columbus and outlined their strategies for presenting testimony in support of the bill that would regulate utility reselling in Ohio. Here's some key updates:
The House Public Utilities committee is waiting to see if there's going to be another bill on this topic before scheduling hearings. Rep McGregor from Springfield has drafted (but not introduced) a bill that would kick regulation of utility resellers over to the Public Utilities Commission (PUCO). The chair of the Public Utilities committee in the state house wants to hear both proposals at the same time.
The Ohio Consumers Council stated that they would support HB422, but will recommend a change to permit PUCO to investigate complaints filed by tenants or MHP residents.
The sponsors reported that they have had meetings with a submetering trade association and a reselling company but don't have a sense of "organized" opposition yet
We're still looking for good stories! contact communitymanager@rhinohio.com with building names, victim contact info, documents 
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