A bill introduced by West Hartford State Sen. Beth Bye and West Hartford State Rep. Derek Slap, as well as State Rep. David Baram of Bloomfield, that calls for ‘more transparency and accountability at the MDC,’ has passed out of committee and will now come before the full legislature for a vote.
Consumers served by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) are one step closer to having an independent advocate who will increase transparency and accountability.
On Friday, the General Assembly’s Planning & Development (P&D) committee passed unanimously, and with bipartisan support, HB 6008, AN ACT ESTABLISHING AN INDEPENDENT CONSUMER ADVOCATE FOR METROPOLITAN DISTRICT OF HARTFORD COUNTY CONSUMERS, introduced by Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) and Reps. David Baram (D-Bloomfield) and Derek Slap (D-West Hartford), which requires the MDC to pay for an independent consumer advocate who will be appointed by – and report to – Connecticut’s Consumer Counsel.
“There are other MDC reforms that we need, but this bill is an important step,” Bye said. “This bill creates the position of independent consumer advocate on the MDC board, someone with public utility law and policy expertise whose sole responsibility is to the consumer. Until now, that is something that has been lacking on the MDC, and now we’ll have somebody.”
Baram hailed this legislation as a way to create transparency and to provide timely information. He said, “Too often MDC policies are decided without advance notice or public participation. Many MDC board members are appointed by the legislature and governor without direct accountability to member towns. An independent consumer advocate cures that deficiency by being accountable to and serving as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the public only. This is a milestone accomplishment that gives a strong voice to the MDC district towns.”
“There’s no dispute that transparency and accountability must be improved at the MDC,” said Slap. “This independent consumer advocate will help ensure the public has a voice and that is essential for monitoring rates and safeguarding our water.”
Bye and Slap, who are both on the P&D committee, voted to pass the bill out of committee. David Baram helped negotiate the proposed legislation. All three legislators spoke of its importance in helping to restore good governance and trust.
The consumer advocate will be required to provide the public information in a timely manner about policies, ordinances, agenda, motions and votes, hearings, and other substantive information dealing with water and sewer management and operations of the Metropolitan District Commission so that the public and municipal officials are aware of matters impacting their towns and fellow residents.
HB 6008 has the support of the CT League of Conservation Voters. Lori Brown, its executive director, testified, “Until now, MDC’s member towns have been inadequately informed and consulted on MDC matters that concern them. Major decisions affecting our state’s water resources controlled by MDC must include public involvement. Water planning and decisions about how it is used, sold, protected, and managed must be inclusive. MDC’s failings in the past to work with citizens about these decisions can be partly addressed by having a dedicated, independent, consumer advocate in place to ensure accurate and responsive two-way communication between the MDC and the public it is mandated to serve. Passage of HB 6008 is an essential first step.”
Patricia O’Connor, a member of Save Our Water and a West Hartford resident, was one of several citizen advocates who testified in favor of the bill, “An objective consumer advocate to keep member residents informed could go a long way toward restoring greater transparency and bridging the chasm of broken trust between the member towns and the MDC.”
HB 6008 must still be passed by the full House and the Senate before the General Assembly adjourns on June 7.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!