NASHVILLE - An overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority passed the House this morning after a contentious debate over why the changes are needed.
The bill eventually passed on a 60-28 vote. Senators passed the legislation last week, but because of a minor technical change added by the House, the bill must go back to the Senate for concurrence.
Gov. Bill Haslam is pushing the bill, which transforms the TRA, which regulates utilities, from the current four-member, full-time board into a five-member, part-time board with a full-time executive director.
Haslam says the TRA changes are needed because the responsibilities of the agency, which makes determinations about utility rate increases, have fallen dramatically as a result of telecommunications deregulation.
Critics, mostly Democrats, say that because the TRA directors act as a quasi-judicial body in rate cases, a part-time board won't work. They note only two states in the U.S. have part-time boards and one is considering re-instituting a full-time board.
Haslam also says the move will save some $350,000 or so.