Bill to Overhaul TRA Passes Tenn. House 60-28

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to overhaul the Tennessee Regulatory Authority passed the House on Tuesday despite criticism that it's unnecessary.

The measure carried by Republican Rep. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville was approved 60-28 on Tuesday. Voting for the bill were 58 Republicans, one Democrat and one independent. Twenty-five Democrats and three Republicans voted against the proposal, including Rep. Matthew Hill, son of TRA Chairman Kenneth Hill.

The companion bill passed the Senate 20-13 last week. The two chambers must agree to a technical change before the measure goes to the governor.

The TRA regulates utilities in the state. The bill would change the agency from a four-member, full-time board to a five-member, part-time board with a full-time executive director.

Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that would have reduced the board to three full-time members.

Sponsors said the change will save the state at least $350,000 a year.

But opponents say the current makeup of the authority is effective and that the legislation is not needed.

"We're trying to fix something that's not broken," said Rep. Mike McDonald, D-Portland. "I think this legislation is very unnecessary."

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported earlier this week that Haslam's staff has declined to release some records about the legislation.

The governor's office solicited advice from nearly a dozen regulated utilities or industry associations about the proposal, according to records obtained by the newspaper.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick defended the administration on the House floor Tuesday.

"I don't think there's anything improper that's been done there," said the Chattanooga Republican.

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