This page is dedicated to information regarding House Bill 465, The "Water Consumers Bill Of Rights" legislation from the 2019 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly

 

In mid-September, 2021, the Cobb County County Commission voted to raise the price of water for Cobb County residents by 11%. The increase will go into effect in January, 2022. Commissioner JoAnn Birrell was the only "nay" vote.

Commissioner Birrell's opposition to the significant price increase for the citizens of Cobb County was based on the county continuing to transfer 8% of the water system's revenues into the county general fund.

Commissioner Birrell deserves our thanks and appreciation for her vote. The price we pay for water should be based upon the cost of providing the water. It should not go for county vehicles, adding positions to the county payroll or any other purchase or service.

mdj front page on water price increase

Aside from the price increase with 8% of the funds from our water bills going into the general fund, it should be said that Cobb County does a good job with providing water and sewer services. The water is always there when we turn on the tap. Unlike some parts of the state, the water has no bad or unusual tastes.

In the 2019 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly, I carried legislation, HB 465, that would have created a "Georgia Water Consumers Bill of Rights". The bill was approved by the committee that I chair, the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, but was stalled by opposition from  powerful lobbying organizations, including the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and the Georgia Association of Water Professionals as it moved to the House Rules Committee. Cobb County is represented by ACCG.

House Bill 465, with passage, would not have prevented Cobb County from raising the rate. It created no regulation at the state level, as the special interest groups listed in the paragraph above misrepresented that it did. However, it would have provided needed transparency for customers on the process of setting rates. Among other things, the legislation required from page 4 of the bill:

(a) Each community water system shall provide to its customers upon request and  shall maintain on a publicly accessible website or otherwise make publicly available the following information:  (1) The process by which rates are determined (The entire bill can be read here)

After over a year of work and negotiations on the legislation with the various interested parties, including the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, and after my the co-signers of the bill and I had agreed to numerous requests for changes to the bill, I brought the bill to the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee for consideration. It was our understanding that we had an agreement on the language of the version of the bill that would be brought forth, only to find that those same special interest groups listed above speaking in opposition to the bill in full committee. The full commmittee, including testimony, meeting can be viewed at: Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications 03 04 19 - YouTube

Alhough I carried the legislation, the idea of having it drawn up and introduced was that of State Representative Karla Drenner - DeKalb County. She and Policy Analyst Blake Doss worked very diligently on the bill and spent countless hours for a period of more than a year perfecting its language.

Below, I have included links to various portions of the presentation of the bill in committee:

Presentation of the legislation in committee by Rep. Don Parsons

 

Testimony by Clint Mueller of ACCG in opposition to the legislation

 

Brief closing remarks by Rep. Don Parsons on the bill in committee

 

I would like to know what you think. Do you believe the ACCG, the GMA and the Georgia Association of Water Professionals are correct that the State of Georgia has no no place in creating a "Water Consumers Bill of Rights" and with their view that some basic guidelines for this utility that is vital for human survival should not be established. Please email me and let me know.

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