Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day. Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
As temperatures plummeted in previous years during the winter, many Pennsylvania residents saw their electric bills shoot up.
For residents with what are known as variable rate contracts, the extended and extreme cold caused their electric bills to go up as much as 300 percent, according to a news release issued by former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane in 2014.
Kane’s office received thousands of complaints from consumers about the winter increases.
Variable rate contracts allow electric companies to charge customers based on the actual cost of generating electricity at a given time.
If the market drops, so do the rates consumers are charged, but if markets go up, so do consumer costs, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission.
Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery County, has introduced a bill aimed at preventing consumers from seeing such drastic increases in their bills.
House Bill 343 would place a 30 percent cap on variations in rates charged under variable rate contracts and prohibit electric companies from charging consumers cancellation or early termination fees.
The bill also requires information like the price associated with a contract, contract terms and fees be “provided in an easily readable and understandable manner” prior to signing the contract, according to a co-sponsorship letter for Godshall’s bill.
“The lessons learned from (2014’s) winter taught us that the provision of electric generation service needs to be regulated to ensure that consumers are informed about the type of electric generation contract they are signing onto,” Godshall wrote in the letter.
Godshall has introduced similar legislation in two previous sessions.