HBA-BSM H.B. 616 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 616 By: Puente State Affairs 2/14/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE The Office of Public Interest Counsel of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (commission) represents the public interest in all proceedings before the commission. House Bill 616 abolishes the Office of Public Interest Counsel, and creates the Office of Natural Resource Public Interest Counsel to represent the public interest in all proceedings before the commission. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS House Bill 616 amends the Water Code to create the Office of Natural Resource Public Interest Counsel (office) and abolish the Office of Public Interest Counsel (former office). The change transfers responsibilities, money, personnel, and other possessions to the office. Additionally, the change requires the counsel for the former office to serve as counsel for the office until a person can be appointed to the position. The bill requires the governor with the advice and consent of the senate to appoint a natural resource public interest counsel (counsel) to serve as executive director of the office on or before February 1, 2003, and sets forth eligibility requirements for the position of counsel. The bill authorizes the counsel to represent the public interest in any issue that arises in a proceeding before the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (commission). The bill entitles the counsel to be admitted as a party to any proceeding before the commission. The bill also requires the counsel to administer the office, prepare and submit a budget for the office, and approve necessary expenditures for the office. The counsel is authorized to recommend to the legislature any legislation that would protect consumers, public health, or the environment, and to make recommendations to the commission to amend rules that may have the same benefits. The counsel is also required to participate in any of the commission's advisory committee meetings to ensure that the public interest is considered. The bill sets forth provisions for matters that the commission is required to give notice to the counsel, and requires the commission to give the counsel access to the commission's technical staff and resources to assist the counsel in a commission proceeding, except when the staff member is expected to participate in the proceeding on the commission's behalf. The counsel is authorized to appeal on behalf of the public an action taken by the commission in a proceeding in which the counsel participated, and to intervene in any other appropriate capacity in a judicial proceeding that arises out of a commission proceeding in which the counsel participated. The proposed first budget for the office may not exceed the amount expended in the previous fiscal biennium by the former office. A former counsel is prohibited from making any communication to or appearance before the commission unless two years have passed since the person served as counsel if the purpose for the communication or appearance is to discuss official business of the commission. The bill prohibits a former counsel from representing any person or receiving compensation for services rendered on behalf of any person regarding a matter before the commission unless two years have passed since the person served as counsel. A violation of these prohibitions is a Class A misdemeanor. EFFECTIVE DATE January 1, 2002.