The Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would require the Long Island Power Authority to ask a state board for approval before adding fuel surcharges to energy bills.
LIPA's surcharges have been a long-simmering issue because they have increased Long Islanders' rates without the utility having to get permission from the Public Service Commission. The Senate passed the same bill in April. The bill now goes to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
At issue has been whether the fuel surcharges should be counted as rate increases and thus trigger commission oversight when those rates go up by more than 2.5 percent in a year.
"Clearly they have done their best to evade the letter and the intent of state requirements," said the bill's sponsor, Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst).
Cuomo's office did not respond to requests for comment.
LIPA chief operating officer Mike Hervey said the authority had heard that the bill passed but gave no immediate response. LIPA has maintained that the fuel surcharges should not be counted as rate increases because they reflect volatility in the energy market and that PSC oversight would imperil its bond rating.
The passage of a similar bill in 2008 triggered actions by two agencies that rate the authority's bonds: Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings both put LIPA's credit rating on negative outlook, which indicated it could be downgraded. A downgrade would have increased LIPA's cost of borrowing. Standard & Poor's reversed course right after then-Gov. David A. Paterson vetoed the bill weeks later. Fitch also reversed its action, but at a later date.
Also Thursday, the Legislature passed bills to expand the state's DNA database to include samples from all misdemeanor offenders. The Assembly version includes provisions that would make DNA database information available to defendants and create an oversight board.
"The governor has spoken very clearly the bill that we passed will go a significant way in preventing crimes and also solving crimes," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Skelos said he thought the two chambers could reconcile their bills.
But Robert Perry of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the potential for human error with an expanding database was problematic. "As you add many tens of thousands of samples every year it's necessary for the state to have a far more robust system of oversight to ensure the integrity of the database," Perry said.
The Assembly and the Senate also Thursday both passed a measure that would make it illegal to smoke on outdoor platforms of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
With Mark Harrington