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AB-1058 Large water corporations: bill payment options.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 09/24/2021 09:00 PM
AB1058:v95#DOCUMENT

Assembly Bill No. 1058
CHAPTER 269

An act to amend Section 755.5 of the Public Utilities Code, relating to water service.

[ Approved by Governor  September 23, 2021. Filed with Secretary of State  September 23, 2021. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1058, Cristina Garcia. Large water corporations: bill payment options.
Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including electrical, gas, and water corporations. Existing law authorizes the commission to fix the rates and charges for every public utility, and requires that those rates and charges be just and reasonable. Existing law authorizes an electrical, gas, or water corporation to offer credit card and debit card bill payment options, if approved by the commission, and, upon approval, authorizes an electrical, gas, or water corporation to recover, through an individual customer transaction fee, reasonable transaction costs incurred by the electrical, gas, or water corporation from those customers that choose those methods of payment.
Existing law, until January 1, 2022, authorizes a water corporation with more than 10,000 service connections to seek commission approval, through its general rate case application, to operate a pilot program designed to evaluate customer interest in, and utilization of, bill payment options, including, but not limited to, credit card, debit card, and prepaid card bill payment options, and to assess the cost-effectiveness of, and customer interests served by, customer access to those bill payment options. Existing law limits the duration of a pilot program to the duration of the water corporation’s rate case cycle. Existing law requires the commission to allow a water corporation to recover the reasonable expenses incurred by the water corporation in providing its customers with these bill payment options, but allows water corporations to not impose a transaction fee on its customers for using these bill payment options.
This bill would delete the time-limited pilot program provisions, require the commission to authorize a water corporation with 10,000 or more service connections, unrelated to its rate case cycle, to recover the reasonable expenses incurred by the water corporation in providing bill payment options to its customers, and not require the water corporation to impose a transaction fee on its customers.
Existing law prohibits the costs of a pilot program from being collected from customers who participate in the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program or the Customer Assistance Program (CAP) for low-income water ratepayers. The CARE and CAP programs have the same eligibility criteria and method of qualification.
This bill would prohibit a water corporation from recovering the costs of offering the bill payment options to its customers from participants in the CAP program.
Under existing law, a violation of the Public Utilities Act or any order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission is a crime.
Because the provisions of this bill would be a part of the act and because a violation of an order or decision of the commission implementing its requirements would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program by creating a new crime.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 755.5 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

755.5.
 (a) Notwithstanding Section 755, the commission shall allow a water corporation with 10,000 or more service connections to recover the reasonable expenses incurred by the water corporation in providing to its customers bill payment options, including credit card, debit card, and prepaid card bill payment options, and shall not require the water corporation to impose a transaction fee on its customers.
(b) The costs of the bill payment options undertaken pursuant to subdivision (a) shall not be recovered from customers participating in a water rate relief program for low-income ratepayers established pursuant to Section 739.8.
(c) The commission shall ensure that accepting bill payment options pursuant to subdivision (a) neither increases nor decreases the rate of return of the water corporation.

SEC. 2.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.