FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 12/09/2010
Rep. Walle Files Bills to Assist Struggling Families
AUSTIN -- In anticipation of the 82nd Legislative Session, Representative Armando Walle (Houston) has filed several bills that will offer relief to families struggling with the protracted recession. These bills address the increase in water and insurance rates that disproportionately affect families whose resources are stretched thin.
"Before the recession, families in my community were already struggling to make ends meet," noted Rep. Walle. "As layoffs continue to impact families across Texas, I am offering common sense solutions that do not penalize families for having low to moderate incomes."
A recent audit of a private water utility in Houston found that the company had passed frivolous expenses along to consumers through their rate increases. House Bill 192 seeks to limit excessive rate hikes by prohibiting private water utilities from raising their rates more than once every 3 years, and placing a 20 percent cap on the amount of the rate increase. To hold companies accountable, HB 193 allows consumers to provide meaningful input during water rate hearings by requiring the hearing to take place in the utility's service area. To increase transparency, HB 206 requires utilities to notify customers of the specific reasons for the rate increase and provide information on bill payment assistance programs for low-income families.
"Folks in the community frequently ask me how to contest water rate increases and where they can find help paying their water bills," stated Rep. Walle. "The bills I have filed will boost accountability and transparency, and give individuals the tools they need to be informed consumers."
Another area where ordinary folks are being penalized during the recession is in the insurance market. Texans pay the highest homeowners insurance rates in the nation. In Texas, insurance companies are permitted to use an individual's credit score to set their insurance rates. Rep. Walle filed HB 194 to prohibit the use of credit scoring in the auto and homeowners insurance markets.
"In this economic crisis, Texans who have played by the rules are seeing their credit scores decline through no fault of their own," remarked Rep. Walle. "As a result, their insurance rates will increase, making it harder for everyday folks to get by. Banning the use of credit scoring in the insurance market will ensure that families don't have to choose between purchasing auto insurance and buying groceries."
Rep. Armando Walle will begin his second term in the Texas House of Representatives in January 2011 and serves on the Urban Affairs and Human Services Committees. He represents House District 140, which includes portions of unincorporated North Harris County and the City of Houston. Rep. Walle was selected "Freshman of the Year" by the members of the Women's Health Caucus.
Contact: Laura Martin