ing the bag and paying all the overhead. So each side has hired a gaggle of lobbyists to push their interests. One big change involves phone service. The oth& involves electric service. Both industries will be deregulated. The question is, how much will the rules be changed? Texans spend nearly $5 billion for local phone service every year. They spend billions more for long distance services. And of course, all those phones would be useless without fax machines, modems, answering machines and the like. But those accessories won’t run without electricity. So, add another $14 billion for our annual electric bill and you get an idea of how much money is riding on deregulation of the Texas phone and electric industries. In the phone sector, cable companies like Houston Industries \(the parent company of Houston Lighting & Power, the managing partner of the beleaguered South Texas owner of phone companies like Southwestern Bell, GTE, AT&T and others, want to offer a wider range of services to customers. For instance, local companies like Southwestern Bell and GTE want to get into the longdistance business, while long-distance companies like MCI, Sprint and AT&T want to get into the local phone business. The cable companies also want to get into the phone business. After more than a year of work, a HouseSenate committee on deregulation couldn’t finalize an agreement. So the two sides \(the local phone companies are on one side, the newspapers, cable and long-distance carrilic opinion and the two lawmakers who will likely write the legislation. On December 15, The Texas Telephone Association announced a plan that would remove many pricing restrictions for local phone companies. The TTN promises that its members would invest $1.5 billion upgrading phone service to schools, hospitals and residences. They also promised not to hike rates for at least four years. Rell Rice, a lobbyist for ITN, said the move would allow “pricing flexibility for services like paging, mobile service, WATS lines and 800 numbers.” Predictably, the plan was shot down by the long-distance and cable companies which called the move a “state mandate” that would give SWB and other local companies a “competitive advantage.” Because the two sides can’t agree, phone lobbyists expect many of the final decisions on the matter to be made by legislators. They expect Curtis Seidlits, Sherman Democrat, and Sen. David Sibley Waco Republican, to write the legislation and introduce it shortly before the session begins. Meanwhile, the Public Utility Commission is going through the Sunset process again and that means that the rules for power generation and distribution are about to change. Independent power Destec \(a subsidiary of Dow that will allow customers to choose their electricity provider in the same way that phone users pick a long distance company. But the established companies, such as HL&P and Texas Utilities, hope to keep the monopolies to pay for the massive power plants that they own. The utility companies and consumer advocates will likely be allies in this fight, advocating a gradual move toward open competition. Consumer groups say gradual moves are in the best interest of ratepayers. Otherwise, the IPPs will serve the biggest and most lucrative customers, leaving the burden of paying for existing power plants on small businesses and residential customers. This issue is similar in scope to the DAVE DENISON telephone issue. Lots of lobby ists are working on it, but most observers are advocating a slower transi tion than that being advocated in the phone sector. Some observers expect IPPs to get a toehold in the marketplace. Judicial Reform. It’s been brewing for a while, but last month’s election of Steve Mansfield to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has made judicial reform a high priority. Mansfield, who even after he padded his rsum had an undistinguished record, rode the Republican wave to defeat incumbent Democrat Charles Campbell and take a seat on the state’s highest criminal appeals court. In late November, Lieut. Gov . Bob Bullock announced that a bipartisan working group headed by Senator Ike Harris, a Dallas Republican, had a plan to reform the judicial election process. The group, which included Senator Sibley, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips, a Republican, and Associate Justice Bob Gammage, a Democrat, lobbyist George Christian and a number of others have put forth a plan that would make races for district judicial elections nonpartisan. Under the proposal, justices to the Texas Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Appeal would be appointed by the governor. The Texas Senate would confirm the appointments. Two years after the appointments are made, voters would decide if the judges can stay in office. If the voters approve, the judge will stand for re-approval six years later. The appellate judges 16 DECEMBER 30, 1994
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