April 16, 2007
If at first you don't succeed, amend another bill

You may recall the mysterious case of Rep. Hubert Vo's HB478, which would require utilities in Texas to accept a bill as being paid by the postmark date on the envelope, thus preventing them from "processing" payments internally and charging late fees as they saw fit. The bill was left pending in committee for no adequately explained reason over a month ago.

Fortunately, in the Lege there is such a thing as a second chance. Rep. Vo was able to attach his measure as an amendment to SB482, where it was adopted, and then passed along with the now-amended bill on Thursday, by a 142-0 vote. This is a very good thing for all Texas consumers.

I've got Rep. Vo's statement beneath the fold. This still isn't over, as there's going to be a conference committee to unify the House and Senate versions of the bill, and the amendment could be stripped out there. But so far, so good, and well done by Rep. Vo.

In a stunning victory for consumers, State Representative Hubert Vo Thursday evening won approval for his amendment which requires electric utility providers to use the postmark date on payment envelopes as the official date paid. The bill he amended is SB 482. "My amendment will remove the uncertainty and provide the only verifiable way to prove payment dates," Vo said. "Currently consumers and business owners who pay their electric bills by mail before the due date are at the mercy of the utility provider as to whether their payment gets posted in time to avoid a late fee." Unable to get an up or down vote in committee on his House Bill 478, Vo decided to file it as an amendment to the big electric utility bill that was up for vote on the House floor Thursday. Vo's original bill covered all utilities but had to be narrowed to just electric providers to conform with SB 482. Vo pointed out during the debate that his amendment would require the utilities to do the same thing as other entities such as the federal Internal Revenue Service or Texas state agencies or state district courts do now concerning postmark dates. Vo said, "I hope that when this bill goes to the conference committee, my amendment stays in the final version. It's time to close this giant loophole and make sure that consumers are protected."
Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 16, 2007 to That's our Lege

Watching the utility companies feed tortured talking points to the lawmakers in their pockets (we're looking at you, Phil King and Carl Issett) is going to be entertaining. Hubert Vo is a star!

Posted by: Cafe Tortoli on April 16, 2007 8:31 AM

Props to Rep. Vo on passing that amendment. He hung tough against some strong opposition and managed to pass an effective, pro-consumer piece of legislation. Now if we could only do the same for the credit card companies! Damn those late fees!

Posted by: el_longhorn on April 16, 2007 12:06 PM