WHAT'S NEW . . .
- Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, 2012. To learn more about what is on the ballot, visit the Secretary of State's website. To find your polling location and view a sample ballot for your Dallas County precinct, visit dallascountyvotes.org.
- On Thursday, November 8, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will launch a new website, Water Data For Texas. This new site will provide comprehensive information on our Texas reservoirs, including reservoir water levels, surface area, capacity, and historical information. The new site will consolidate and replace information from several other TWDB websites.
- On Monday, October 22, State District Judge John Dietz in Austin began the trial in the school finance litigation. Since the last legislative session, six lawsuits have been filed in the litigation and nearly 2/3 of the state's school districts are participating in the suits. The primary allegation in most of the suits is that schools cannot provide an adequate education due to funding inequities and inefficiencies. Whatever the outcome in the District Court trial, it is all but certain that the decision will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
- The 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature is quickly approaching. Pre-filing for bills to be considered will open November 12, 2012 and the Session will officially begin a little less than two months later, on January 8, 2013.
FOCUS . . .
Advanced Meters and the Electric Grid
In 2005, the Texas Legislature examined ways to increase the reliability of the state's power grid, encourage dynamic pricing in the electric market, and provide more choices for consumers. At that time, advanced meters, or smart meters, were considered as part of a larger effort to create a network of technology to provide electric grid operators and consumers with real-time energy use information. The availability of such information allows consumers to decrease energy use at critical times in order to help maintain the electric grid's reliability, avoid rolling outages, and decrease the consumer's electricity bill -- this idea is also known as demand response.
As a result of these discussions, the Legislature encouraged the use of smart meter technology by electric utilities. Since the beginning of deployment in 2007, about 90 percent of smart meters planned for installation have been installed totaling approximately 5.8 million to date. Recently, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) approved rules under which utilities are permitted to deploy smart meters. Although the PUC's rules require that consumers be notified before and after smart meters are installed on their property, some consumers have raised questions about the use of smart meter technology altogether and have expressed a desire to opt out of the smart meter program.
Advocates for the use of smart meters stress the benefits described above, including that smart grid technology can improve responses to power emergencies because, unlike analog meters, smart meters can alert utilities of power outages or restorations in real-time. Proponents also emphasize that smart grid technology will allow electric utilities to offer "super saver" price plans, which give customers the option to change their consumption patterns based on information collected by the smart meter. Opponents of smart meter use fear that the radio frequency waves used and electromagnetic field created by smart meters have health risks. Some also believe the required deployment of smart meters violates the rights of property owners since currently consumers cannot refuse installation on their property without loss of service. Some opponents also have concerns about the security of information collected by smart meters.
To address these concerns, on October 9, the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, which I chair, held a hearing asking for expert testimony on the health risks associated with the use of smart meters. Public testimony on the subject was also received. The PUC also discussed these issues at an August 22 public hearing where they additionally looked into security and privacy concerns. The Commission is still considering the possibility of forming guidelines by which utilities will offer consumers the ability to opt out of smart meter installation or service.
I am already planning to carry legislation to require utilities to respect homeowners' wishes regarding the meters -- an "opt out" provision, if you will. I share many of your concerns and will continue to monitor all PUC actions related to smart meter installation to determine if further legislative action will be necessary to protect our personal information.
DID YOU KNOW . . .
- The Secretary of State's office has released a new voting app for your smart phone. Visit www.votetexas.gov to learn more or download the SmartTXVoter app on your iPhone, Android, or iPod Touch.
- Oncor, an electric transmission and distribution service provider, has a number of ways to keep their customers informed about power outages. For example, you can go to Oncor's Storm Center site (http://stormcenter.oncor.com/default.html) to see a 24-hour map showing outage areas. Also, if you lose power, you can report the outage and receive updates via text message by texting the message "REG" to 66267 (ONCOR).
IN CLOSING . . .
It is with great sorrow that I pass along the news of the passing of my friend and fellow Senator, Mario Gallegos. Senator Gallegos and I were both sworn in as House members in 1990 and have served in the Legislature together for the last 22 years. Although we represented different political parties, we found many opportunities to work together. My Senate colleagues and I will miss his friendship. My prayers and condolences are extended to his friends and family during this time.
State Senator - District 16
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.
Dallas, TX 75205