Category Archives: Tennessee Regulatory Authority

TRA at Standstill; No Leaders Named to Overhauled Panel

Gov. Bill Haslam’s newly reorganized Tennessee Regulatory Authority is off but not running since the governor and legislative leaders failed to appoint an executive and a quorum of directors by July 1, reports Andy Sher
Meanwhile, a six-month clock is already ticking on Tennessee American Water’s June 1 request to hike Chattanooga’s water rates by nearly 25 percent.
The TRA must decide on the request no later than November or the $10.5 million increase automatically will take effect.
Gas utilities Atmos Energy Corp. and Navitas, which operate in other parts of the state, filed rate-increase requests with the TRA on June 22 and July 2, respectively.
But the TRA last had a quorum of directors June 8. At their final meeting, Chairman Kenneth Hill and directors Sara Kyle and Mary Freeman named Hill as hearing officer in the Tennessee American case to keep proceedings moving.
“The clock started when they filed, and that’s why I put myself in the position to try to expedite” matters, Hill said.
But the Atmos and Navitas filings came after Freeman quit to take a job in Memphis. The result? Without a quorum, the board can’t even name a hearing officer right now.
Hill said Tuesday that getting a timely decision in the Tennessee American “depends on how much data comes in and how fast and how soon we can get hearings and reconcile testimony and come up with a decision.”
“We’re confident, at least at this point, because we were able to get ahead of the curve and get started on these procedurals,” Hill said.
But, he added, the Atmos and Navitas rate requests “are another question because we’re behind on those two.”
Hill and Kyle stayed on as part-time directors under the reorganization. Director Eddie Roberson, a Democrat, and Freeman left their positions. That means there are three unfilled board seats plus the executive director position.
Haslam spokesman David Smith downplayed the situation, Tuesday, saying, “We continue to move through the process and are committed to finding the best fits for the positions.”
Asked when the governor anticipates filling the posts, Smith said, “It’s as soon as we find the best fits for the positions.”
The appointment will be made jointly by Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell, all Republicans. Neither Ramsey nor Harwell responded to requests for comment.

Newly-Created TRA Top Job Draws 18 Applicants

Eighteen people have applied for the job of running day-to-day operations at the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, including the first chairman of the agency and three current or former TRA employees.
The utility-regulating TRA was substantially changed earlier this year with passage of legislation pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The transformation replaces the present four full-time directors with a five-member, part-time board and creates a new position for a full-time executive director
During legislative debate, critics of the Haslam bill questioned whether the executive director would effectively run the agency with the part-time board serving as a rubber stamp for his or her decisions. Proponents disputed such contentions.
The deadline for submitting applications was June 6, but the Haslam administration – in response to a request made a day later — did not provide a full list of applicants until Friday. Apparently, the delay was partly caused by most of the applicants filing with the Department of Human Resources, as requested in ads soliciting applications, while four sent their applications directly to the governor.

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Governor Moves to Assert More Control Over Independent Agencies

Having completed a “top-to-bottom review” of more than 200 arms of state government, Gov. Bill Haslam is moving to assert more direct control over their operations and reduce their numbers.
His move has stirred some bipartisan unease among legislators and outright opposition from representatives of some professions and industries regulated by the boards and commissions impacted.
About 140 job positions would be abolished in 22 different governmental organizations.
In general, critics see Haslam’s legislative proposals as an unwarranted assertion of executive political power that undermines the independent operations of agencies. These agencies, they believe, are working well and, in most cases, operate on fees collected from regulated industries rather than general tax dollars.
The governor says it’s simply a matter of bringing more efficiency and effectiveness to elements of the state bureaucracy that have gone for decades in some cases without change. He also wants to assure they are “fulfilling the purpose they were originally intended to when they were created.”

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TRA Gets a Lobbyist (they probably need one this year)

News release from Tennessee Regulatory Authority:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) is pleased to announce that Tim Schwarz has joined agency. Tim will be serving as Chief of Communications and External Affairs and his primary focus will be to lead our
legislative efforts as Director of Legislative Affairs.
“We are thrilled to welcome a government relations professional with the background and expertise that Mr. Schwarz brings to our organization,” said TRA Chairman, Kenneth C. Hill. “Tim’s knowledge of state government and how it works makes him a tremendous asset as we continue in the role of overseeing the state’s investor-owned utility service
providers.”
Tim has 15 years of government affairs experience in Tennessee having worked in the legislative branch as a contract lobbyist, and most recently in the executive branch under the administrations of Governor Bredesen and Governor Haslam.
While with the Bredesen Administration, Tim was instrumental in advancing and protecting the governor’s interests and priorities regarding conservation, health care and the state budget. Last legislation session, Tim served as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Tennessee Department of Health.
“I’m excited and honored that Chairman Hill has given me this opportunity to continue my public service at the TRA.Chairman Hill has terrific team in place and I am eager to get to work with the upcoming legislative session,” said Schwarz.
An active member in the Nashville community, Tim currently serves as Co-Chair of Southern Word, Inc., a nonprofit that promotes cultural literacy through poetry for at risk youth in Nashville and surrounding communities. He is also a member of The Tennessee Nature Conservancy’s young professionals group, Generation Conservation (Gen-C) Steering Committee and is actively involved at St. Henry’s Church where two of his children attend school.
Tim is a native of Portland, Oregon and a graduate of the University of Puget Sound where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He also received his Juris Doctor degree from the Nashville School of Law.
The mission of the TRA is to promote the public interest by balancing the interests of utility consumers and providers. For more information on the TRA, visit online at www.tn.gov/tra.

Jean Stone Named TRA General Counsel

News release from Tennessee Regulatory Authority:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) today announced that Jean A. Stone has been named as General Counsel of the agency. In the capacity of General Counsel, Ms. Stone will provide in-house counsel to the Directors and staff of the TRA, as well as represent the agency and the Directors in their official capacity before the Tennessee Supreme Court, Tennessee Court of Appeals and in the Federal Courts.
Ms. Stone has served in several noteworthy roles within the TRA prior to today’s appointment, including Senior Policy Advisor to a former TRA Director and Chairman as well as a TRA Staff Attorney and Legal Counsel.
She is a native of the state of Alabama and graduate of the University of Alabama, where she received her JurisDoctorate (JD) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.
The mission of the TRA is to promote the public interest by balancing the interests of utility consumers and providers. For more information on the TRA, visit online at www.tn.gov/tra.