Bill to Help Burned Veterans Passes Senate
(Austin) — Today, the Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 981, authored by Senator Leticia Van de Putte (District 26, Bexar County). This bill allows vertically integrated electric utilities, municipally owned utilities, retail electricity providers, and electric cooperatives to establish an electricity discount program for military veterans who have a significantly decreased ability to regulate their body temperature because of severe burns received in combat.
The bill also requires the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) to compile a list of the discount programs offered by retail electricity providers to military veterans with severe burns and for that list to be posted on the PUC website.
This bill is patterned on a bill passed in the 82nd Legislature that allowed CPS Energy, a municipally owned utility serving San Antonio and the surrounding areas, the ability to create an electricity discount for certain veterans. The bill only applied to CPS. Due to the program's success, Senator Van de Putte sought to allow expansion of the program throughout the state. SB 981 is permissive, not mandatory.
"Because of their severe burns and their inability to regulate their body temperature, these brave veterans require their homes to be kept at significantly cooler temperatures than normal, especially during our brutal Texas summers," said Senator Van de Putte. "This program worked for our heroes in San Antonio. I know utilities in other parts of the state will appreciate being allowed to help our burned warriors in their service areas as well. Texans have always valued the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families."
Retired Army Master Sergeant Bobby Ehrig was severely injured by a suicide truck bomb in Iraq in 2006. He suffered 3rd degree burns over 40% of his body. He lives in the San Antonio area because of its excellent burn treatment doctors and facilities.
"Think about the hottest day of your entire life, and [multiply] that by 10," Ehrig testified before the Senate Business & Commerce Committee on March 26. "When the temperature goes above 72 degrees . it creates a situation where it's life or death.
"[Veterans] are not asking to remove their bills," Ehrig said, they just want some assistance "so we don't have to worry about the 80% of the time we spend imprisoned in our homes."
After the bill's passage today, Ehrig said, "This is a testament to how the state of Texas and Senator Van de Putte take care of veterans. We really appreciate it. It's one of the reasons we like to stay in Texas. People here take care of their veterans better than any other state."