NC House Bill 457 Get Out Of House Utilities Committee. Goes to Floor next.

H457 provides merely for a public meeting notice by the power agency when it is taking action to change electric rates and a public hearing notice by the city/town when it is taking action to change electric rates. 

Right now the Power Agency provides notice of its regular meeting schedule but not the specific agenda items; though, copies would be available upon request.  The cities only provide public hearing notices if the rate change is at the same time as the budget, and even then the notice would not specify that an electric rate change is the subject of the hearing.  Under our bill, the rate change agenda item would be specified in the notice published one a week for a 2 week period and would cover any meeting at which a rate change is being considered.

Many support this basic notice requirement and think that it is consistent with other public hearing requirements that are required.

Without this provision, there are no legal requirements to notify the customers specifically of a pending rate change other than the basic/minimal public meeting requirements.  We think this is unfair to citizens and that a 2 week meeting notice, published twice,  for the agency meeting and the public hearing notice for the

MORE INFORMATION

Section 1 of the bill would require municipalities that are members of the Eastern Municipal Power Agency to hold a public hearing prior to changing the rates for electric service. The municipality would be required to publish a notice once a week for two successive weeks in a newspaper having general circulation in the municipality. The notice must clearly state the purpose of the meeting and the amount of the proposed change in the rates. Any resident of the municipality may speak at the hearing.

Section 2 of the bill would also require the Eastern Municipal Power Agency to hold a public meeting prior to changing its rates for energy sold to the members of that Power Agency. The Power Agency would be required to provide notice to the municipalities that are members of the Agency, and publish a notice once a week for two successive weeks in each newspaper having general circulation in each of the member municipalities. The notice must clearly state the purpose of the meeting and the amount of the proposed change in the rates.

Other than the open meeting law, the law does not specifically require the municipalities or the power agencies hold public meetings or public hearings when a change in the rates will occur.

As public bodies, both the municipalities and the power agencies should be following the open meetings law.  That law requires official meetings of the bodies to be open.  Public notice of regular meetings can be given by filing the schedule of meetings in a central location.  For cities, the central location is generally with the city clerk.  Once the notice of regularly scheduled meetings if filed, no other notice is required.  If the body does not meet at its regular time, notice of special meetings must be posted on the principle bulletin board of the body, or the meeting room door.  In addition the notice must be mailed to anyone that requests notice.  Notice for a special meeting must be provided 48 hours before the meeting.

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About George Fisher

George is a freelance writer, an author and a Democratic political consultant. He has worked as Deputy Communications Director for a Senatorial campaign and Campaign Manager for several NC House races and one congressional race. He previously worked as a news producer for a local television station.
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