A bill filed in the 84th Texas Legislature would have required electricity providers to hold elections in which a co-op member votes only for board candidates from the member’s own district.
The language in House Bill 3451 would have applied to certain Texas cooperatives, but only Pedernales Electric Cooperative meets the bill’s description. The PEC holds at-large elections in which any co-op member can vote for any director candidate. The PEC provides power in seven Texas districts, including in Cedar Park and Leander.
Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, filed the bill March 12.
“[With the PEC] you have a state-protected monopoly and board members who feel threatened by their [constituents] who want to have more of a say in how they’re elected,” Dale said. “That’s not very democratic.”
Dale said the bill did not exit committee by the required deadline of May 14. He plans to attach the bill to another related bill.
“We’re certainly going to look at all legislative options that we have available to us,” Dale said.
On March 17 the PEC’s board of directors passed a resolution that says Dale’s bill “constitute[s] an unprecedented, undemocratic and unwarranted governmental interference and overreach into the free and independent governance of a private member‐owned cooperative corporation.”
Board of directors member Kathy Scanlon, District 3, said she opposes the bill.
“Do you know of any private corporations that have their shareholder elections by district? Absolutely not,” Scanlon said March 17. “[The bill is] intrusive. It’s dictatorial. And I for one am sick and tired of the Legislature interfering in our business when we’re trying to do the best job we can. We are the model child for a perfect corporation and perfect co-op in this country.”
Board of directors member Emily Pataki, District 2, said she personally favors the bill.
“Each area should decide who best represents them, and I also believe it’s best practice for any elected body to elect its representatives with a majority vote,” Pataki said. “I disagree with much of the language of the [March 17 PEC] resolution and voted against it, particularly because it authorized unlimited co-op dollars and staff time to oppose the legislation.”
In 2011 and 2014 the PEC held two member referendums on at-large versus single-district voting. In 2014, 9,219 voters, or about 53.7 percent, voted to keep at-large voting, and 7,957 voters, or about 46.3 percent, voted for single districts.
Pataki and Dale said they believe the two referendums were flawed and confused voters.
Dale said he will continue to pursue the issue.