January 18, 2013In Fact Daily Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) is circulating a proposed bill that would allow the City Council to appoint an independent board of directors for Austin Energy. Watson provided a copy of the draft in a letter to Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Manager Marc Ott. After noting his interest in seeing that Austin Energy gets a “professional, experienced Board of Directors to oversee” the utility, Watson’s letter states, “As you also know, I wasn’t pleased by the amount of time and controversy involved in determining Austin Energy’s most recent rate increase. During that time I recommended that the city establish a quasi-judicial administrative hearings process overseen by a respected, independent administrative law judge.” Of course, that did not happen, but the appointment of such a hearings officer for rate-making proceedings is set forth in Watson’s proposed legislation, along with language related to competitive bidding for renewable resources. Leffingwell has already said that he would present the idea of establishing an independent board, such as the one San Antonio’s municipally-owned utility, CPS Energy, has. (See Whispers, Jan 15, 2013) While there are certainly a good number of people who would welcome establishment of such a professional board, there are others, most notably Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen Texas, who would oppose the idea. But regardless, there is little chance that other legislators will simply leave Austin Energy alone if Watson does nothing.