Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz dreams of a day when New York might finally have a utility consumer advocate. Yet despite the fact the Assembly has passed the lawmaker’s bill for the sixth time in nearly a decade, Dinowitz is now waiting for the bill to make its way once again to the governor’s desk.
“There is no question that the playing field is incredibly unbalanced toward corporate utility companies when it comes to the provisions of essential public utilities,” Dinowitz said, in a release. “These multi-billion-dollar corporations are able to access high-powered and expensive resources to advocate on their own behalf, but there is not a countervailing influence that acts on behalf of regular, working people.”
The closest Dinowitz has come to having the consumer advocate bill become law was in 2019.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo rejected it, according to Dinowitz’s office, saying the state’s public service department was already doing exactly what the Assemblyman was looking for.
“I understand that Gov. Cuomo has thought this legislation to be redundant in years past, but I am hopeful that he has thought hard about the issue, and has reconsidered his position,” Dinowitz said. “I urge Gov. Cuomo to finally give New Yorkers the voice we deserve in the regulatory process of public utilities.”
The senate passed its version of the bill in May before getting the thumbs up from the Assembly about two weeks later.
Dinowitz first introduced the idea of a utility consumer advocate in 2013 that was passed by his colleagues during that session, and again in the 2015-16 session, only to be stalled in the Republican-controlled senate. It didn’t move far in the 2017-18 session, but did make it to Cuomo in 2019 after Democrats took over both chambers.
The idea was to create an independent state agency that would represent utility consumers — something Dinowitz says is available in more than 40 other states as well as the District of Columbia.
Such an advocate would appear on behalf of consumers for all state and federal regulatory proceedings as well as judicial reviews, according to a staff memo attached to the Assembly bill.
While New York does have the Public Service Commission and the Utility Intervention Unit within the state department, neither can act solely on behalf of consumers.