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Senator Judith Zaffirini: District 21
Press Release
February 26, 2021
Contact: Laura Felix
Zaffirini Proposes Mandatory Weatherization, PUC Reforms
Bills Filed Would Help Prevent Future Winter Disasters,
Ensure Accountability from State Utility Regulators

(AUSTIN)—Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Friday (Feb. 26) filed legislation in response to the recent winter storm that claimed the lives of more than 50 Texans and left millions without power, water or both.

"After hearing my constituents' experiences and listening to the testimony before House and Senate oversight committees, I believe it's clear that this was a manmade disaster, and legislative changes are needed to ensure it never happens again," the senator said.

Senate Bill 845 would establish minimum weatherization standards, effectively requiring power providers to prepare for extreme weather events. It also would ensure that providers implement winterization measures by requiring inspections of critical systems and imposing meaningful penalties for failure to comply, especially when companies fail to remedy violations quickly.

"Our vulnerability to winter weather was not a secret—it’s been known for years," Senator Zaffirini said. "After 2011 the Legislature chose to trust our generators and providers to weatherize, rather than mandate them to do so. That trust clearly was misplaced, with unacceptable and deadly consequences."

Recognizing that common-sense regulations are only as effective as the entities that enforce them, the senator also filed Senate Bill 857, which would make membership on the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) an elected, instead of appointed, position. The three commissioners would serve staggered six-year terms, similar to their elected counterparts on the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the oil and gas industries.

"Texans have seen firsthand the need for strong leadership at the PUC," Senator Zaffirini said. "They deserve the right to hold these leaders accountable for their decisions."

The senator will collaborate with legislators who are filing other bills, is reviewing legislation to co-author and is researching other possibilities. She welcomes constituents to contact her via 512/463-0121 or to share their own experiences or to provide greater insight.

"Last week's events were unacceptable," the senator said. "We will work tirelessly, collaboratively and on a bipartisan basis to investigate and resolve every failure associated with this disaster and to hold those responsible accountable for their negligence. I am confident the Legislature will act swiftly and appropriately."

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SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, is the second-highest ranking member and highest-ranking female and Hispanic member of the Texas Senate. She recently filed legislation to require electricity generators, distributors and providers to weatherize their systems and to make membership on the Public Utility Commission of Texas a statewide elected position.