Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Herring defends the undefensible

The Public Service Commission tried to make it easier for those suffering from domestic violence to obtain utilities.  However, good ole boy attorney Jim Herring tried to stop the PSC from doing as his message to battered women and children was simply tough luck. Yup, wife-beaters found a friend in Jim Herring and his client.  The Clarion-Ledger reported:

Attorneys from the Mississippi Rural Water Association and the Public Service Commission argued in front of the Mississippi Supreme Court Monday over the PSC's  Domestic Violence Rule as it relates to utility deposits.
James Herring, attorney for the rural water association, argued that the PSC exceeded its "statutory authority” when  it unanimously approved the Domestic Violence Rule in 2014.

Championed by Commissioner Brandon Presley, the Domestic Violence Rule allows certified victims of domestic violence to waive their utility deposit for the first 60 days in their billing cycle. The deposit is due at the end of the 60 days.

Herring said by waiving the deposit for 60 days, the commission violated Section 77-3-5 which says, in part, the commission “shall not have jurisdiction over the governance, maintenance or internal affirms nor authority over rate-making powers.”

Herring argued that by delaying the deposit, the commission, in effect, was setting the rate.
He then referred to the Domestic Violence Rule as a “public relations move that didn’t really have much of an impact.”...

Frank Farmer, attorney with the Mississippi Attorney General’s office, disagreed. Addressing the justices, Farmer said, “A deposit is simply not a rate."

Farmer further argued that the deposit did not belong to the utility company, saying it is "money owed back to the depositor."... Article
Speaking of various water associations, Farmer said, "They can still enforce any deposit mechanism they choose. The only thing the rule does is give somebody additional time to pay it."...
 Not much of an impact? You know what an impact is, Mr. Herring? A fist thrown at full force against a woman's face.  Repeatedly banging a child's head off of the wall. Running over a wife with a car. A mallet bouncing off of a head. Those are impacts.  Of course it might be unreasonable for dinosaurs from the Mississippi Delta to understand anything about domestic violence.

Think JJ is being too harsh? The Heather Spencer police report is posted below.  Read it. Suppose a woman is in a similar situation.  Her husband or boyfriend splits her head open with a hammer.  She escapes to a battered women's shelter.  Her husband has probably cut off all support. She saves some money so she can live on her own and stand on her own two feet.  A few hundred dollars for utility deposits is probably a large sum of money to her at this point- even more so if she has kids and they are cut off from the wife-beater.  She finds a place to live that she can afford but can't move in because she doesn't have the money to pay the utility deposits. 

The Public Service Commission is helping this woman but Jim Herring and his clients are not interested in helping battered women or beaten children.  Shylock has to have his pound of flesh.  Mr. Herring gives the game away when he says the rule has not had much of an impact.  If it hasn't had much of an impact, then it is not really affecting his clients, is it?  Making it tougher to leave a wife-beater might not be the goal but it sure is the result of what Mr. Herring and his client want to do. 

This case shows what is wrong with Mississippi and why it is all too often a laughingstock. 


Anonymous said...

Totally disagree. Far be it from me to defend Herring but will defend his legal position. The concept here is great. But we should not have a 'mama government' making good thoughts into overreaching law like this. The PSC does not have anD should not have the ability to put regulation like this in place over water systems -public or private. The systems should all adopt this as their policy, but the state has no business or the current ability to require it.

Anonymous said...

Totally disagree. Far be it from me to defend Herring but will defend his legal position. The concept here is great. But we should not have a 'mama government' making good thoughts into overreaching law like this. The PSC does not have anD should not have the ability to put regulation like this in place over water systems -public or private. The systems should all adopt this as their policy, but the state has no business or the current ability to require it.

Anonymous said...

You drag out Heather Spencer every chance you get - and it has no application here. Ms Spencer did not stay in this terrible relationship BECA US SHE could not pay a water deposit. She did stay in a terrible relationship with a sickening disastrous result. But this PSC policy has no connection -crappy way of trying to connect apples to horseshoes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks JJ.

Ghost of Reddy Killowatt said...

Herring was right. It is indeed a public relations stunt. Oh, but to agree with Herring means I'm in favor of beating women! Wrong. If you carve out this privilege for this one segment of society, what about the disabled who want the same benefit? Those who are broke? Those who get the Obama phone and want the PSC-Break? Ole folks on a fixed or zero income?

Anonymous said...

MSRWA directors are all male.
Just happened to notice that. Well, actually I went to to see if they were.

Must have some impact, the way they squealed.

Anonymous said...

Call me cold hearted if you want to, but I totally disagree that Herring is in an indefensible position. The government already requires us to pay tax dollars, some of which are supposed to go towards helping people such as this. Why should I now have to pay an increased water bill or increased electric bill to help with something I’m already paying taxes towards? If I wanted to give more to help battered women, that should be my choice. The PSC should not make that choice for me. The PSC’s argument that a deposit does not affect rates is what is indefensible. What exactly happens to everyone’s rates should a person decide to skip out on their power bill before their 60 days are up? My guess is everyone will be forced to pay for this in the form of increased rates. And as has already been pointed out, where does it stop? Today its battered women, tomorrow it’s the elderly or the disabled or the poor. Again, I’m sure these are all terrible situations and I hate it for these individuals, but I shouldn’t be forced to pay higher utility bills in order to support them. That’s what my tax dollars go towards.

Anonymous said...

You drag out Heather Spencer every chance you get ...

That is bullshit. Prove it.

Anonymous said...

Wow! There are some cold, cruel, heartless people on this board. How terrible that a utility would have to wait 60 whole days to get a deposit from someone trying to escape getting the crap beat out of them. How about some compassion folks?

Anonymous said...

I think the deposit someone has to make to get an apartment is much more costly than the deposit someone has to make to get water service.

But this is a battle between these utilities and what authority the PSC has over them. Presley picked this issue to get just this kind of response. The actual impact, if the PSC wins, will be that deposits will go away and instead be rolled into the rates. And the regulatory power of the PSC over these utilities will be increased.

10:19 said...

10:47. Don't believe the comment said 'on this site' - there is more to JJ than just what he posts here or comments here. JJ gets much of what he posts here from spending time visiting and talking with many people, and those conversations are about a wide variety of subjects.

And besides - I don't give a damn about proving anything to you. The point is still the same. There is no connection between Heather Spencert and this PSC autocratic rule.


Anonymous said...

10:41 please provide a link to or even the name of the government program than pays utility bills for victims of domestic violence.

Anonymous said...

my priest has a discretionary fund that can be used for utility deposits for all types of hardship cases; there are shelters for abuse victims; in other words having a water meter deposit is probably a ways down a victim's priority list. when they did that, it was just another Brandon Presley "hey, look at me..." stunts.

the government should not dictate to businesses that they should be charitable.

Anonymous said...

Wrong for Government to tell a private water company how to do business when all the rules on health and safety are met.Herring is just protecting the right of a private organization with bills to pay also. PSC just buying votes with someone else's money.

Anonymous said...

Not cold, cruel or heartless. Just saying that government has no authority to require this. Many do already for many more reasons - remember these are most often local folks who all know each other and are often member managed.

But Brandon Presley, a true example of population government - promoted this because it sounds good on the stump. Forget that it exceeds the agencies authority- Presley is in the race against Hose man to claim authority over anything and everything he can claim.

Anonymous said...

Jim Herring made a career out of self serving publicity stunts. Good lawyer though.

Anonymous said...

Are you stalking Kingfish @10:57?

Anonymous said...

Domestic abuse is a sad and harsh reality in society - no one here disagrees with that premise. It is a tremendous shame but the financial assistance for victims should be available through philanthropy and religious organizations. This could also include private sector utilities who voluntarily incorporate policies for economic hardship. The government should incentivize assistance but not mandate it.

Anonymous said...

Pro Corporate to a fault.*****

Mr. Herring's argument along with the comments here on this thread demonstrate a current
of thought that has become all too pervasive in America. And, I say this as someone who closed family
business due to regulatory burdens (it was regulated into the ground).

I know that businesses aren't charities. I also understand that most expect any business
to function as a charity. But, this isn't a giveaway. This is a deferred *security deposit*, not a deferred bill.

Anonymous said...

10:58- you evidently miss the point. I don't know if there is a government program that pays (or delays) these deposits, although I do know of several utilities that have initiated it for themselves. But the point is - there should not be such a government program. And the government should not be in the business of dictating that a utility district has to do so. It is not the role of the PSC but it is in Presley's attempt to be a good Democrat, give anything I can find to anybody, politico.

Anonymous said...

1) for or against domestic violence - AGAINST
2) for or against poor folks hardships - AGAINST
3) for or against the disaster of Heather Spencer - AGAINST

But do I believe that the cost of a water deposit even enters a victim's mind when considering getting out of an abusive environment? - NO

I do imagine that they might wonder how they are going to pay the rent. Or how they are going to pay the utility bill. Or their cell phone bill; or internet access for FB chats; or their car note. But the one time cost of a water bill which generally runs in the $50 or so range is not what keeps a victim from leaving. For this I would agree with Herring and challenge KF (or anyone else) to make an argument that this is what keeps them in the relationship.

Many victims go to shelters - where there is no cost. Others go to family where the utilities are already in place. But if they have to go rent an apartment, the deposit for the apartment could well be a consideration. Do you think the government should require all apartment owners - or even those that are subsidized by the government, for argument's sake - to have to delay the payment of a deposit?

In many cases there are sources for help - as noted above many churches have the priest/pastor's purse available for such help. In many utility districts, they have established local policies to allow for waiving the deposit, not just delaying it.

Herring is probably correct in his argument that this is a non-issue, despite KF's comment about it being heartless. And check Heather Spencer's financial condition at the time she was killed - please tell me that the $60 water deposit in the City of Jackson would have made a difference in her leaving. We all know it wouldn't - she, like so many others, felt that she could rehabilitate the monster,even though she had failed on several previous occasions. I agree with the above comment - dragging her into this as proof of the heartless comments of Herring or the good nature of our populist politician Presley is crap - and heartless on KF's part.

Anonymous said...

Let the PSC pay the deposit for that is what their leader, Obama, would have them do.

Anonymous said...

You drag out Heather Spencer every chance you get ...That is bullshit. Prove it.

Do your own check. Search it at the top of the front page here. He throws up Heather Spencer at the wall at least twice a year, could be more.

Anonymous said...

By reading the previous comments to this thread, it's pretty conspicuous to me that people are TIRED of paying for everyone else's issues! Of course the public deplores domestic violence - among any number of additional criminal behaviors - however people are just sick and tired of being burdened with costs that are FORCED on them by the government to compensate people for various reasons (many of which are as a result of their own making.....)

Government is usually NOT the answer. In fact, government is RARELY the answer.

Anonymous said...

I'm more upset that the utility companies are fighting this.
Once upon a time there was the notions of " consumer good will" ( it was even on financial statements) and being " a good corporate citizen".
These women forced to flee their home had a home with utilities where the " deposit" was paid and they are not likely to even get half of their deposit back.
Deposits were waived or reduced on a regular basis.
Of course, during those times, shareholders in utilities bore the risks of expansion as well. This was a safe guard to keep utilities from investing into expansions that would not be profitable or reduce utility costs.
Utilities are different from private business for a reason and that reason is that they are essential to communities. Also, there is no choice for a citizen to " shop around" for a better option.

Once upon a time, utility stocks were supposed to be a low risk, safe investment where the return was a small but reliable amount. Utilities were under government scrutiny to keep utilities available and with the idea of lowering rates over time.
By the way, does anyone ever get their deposit back unless they leave the area and even then, how long does the utility keep the money? You can transfer it to another home. But, when you die, how often does the family think to request the utility deposit be returned? They will have the utilities cut off and the buyer of the new home must pay utilities again.

The unethical business practices in the utility industry and the insurance industry should be a national disgrace and there should be outrage. These gradually money grubbing practices are direct result of the public falling for the propaganda that all regulations are bad.Some regulations are to keep others from picking your pocket. And, the worst regulations have at the heart a corporation trying to eliminate competition from the " little guy" by requiring expenses that, for example, agri-business can afford but that will drive the small farmer , out of business. There are life insurance policies never paid. The loss for an insurance company from a disaster is a one year figure and doesn't take in the profit and interest they should have accrued from decades of insurance on a home that had no claims. Like the utilities, they are supposed to invest wisely to weather short falls , not give the profit to their executives in outrageous salaries and perks and donations to politicians! That is what has changed.

Think people. A dollar even doesn't seem like much until you multiply by tens of thousands and sometimes millions of individual households. And , also consider the interest value and real cash value of that dollar.

You have to know how things are supposed to work and how they worked when the middle class was growing not declining to start to understand why things are going so badly and people are so frustrated now. And, you have to stop listening to paid propaganda and try to find objective sources of information.

Anonymous said...

I'm highly against domestic violence and will do anything to prevent it, or help those who have suffered from it. There are organizations and charities that help victims every day. But I do not think government should force a private entity to do something. I do not think that the government should force Kroger to give victims free food. And this is basically the same thing. Next thing you know, deposits will be waived for gays, senior citizens, veterans, the handicapped, minorities, etc. Also, remember that Jim Herring is representing Rural Water Associations which are non-profit. They are required by law to treat everyone the same. This fully contradicts the ideal of treating everyone the same. Presley is grand standing and dealing with an issue that falls far out of his jurisdiction. Typical government trying to solve everything.

Anonymous said...

7:00 - you miss a major fact in this case.

You talk about "utilities and their stockholders" - people who invest in these safe investments - etc. etc.

Herring's clients are the Rural Water Associations. Listen to the case, that's the big difference here. Water Associations are NOT STOCKHOLDER owned, they are member owned. They do not have people that have invested in them - the are managed by a board of directors that are elected by the members that use their service.

This is not Entergy, or MS Power. The PSC has the right to control the rates charged by them because they are stockholder owned, and the PSC is charged with making sure their rates are appropriate.

The PSC does not have the authority to regulate rates of Rural Water Associations or City owned water systems. The members through their election of directors for RWA, and the citizens who vote on the Mayor & Board for the city systems have their own control over their rates.

The stockholder utilities oftentimes do exactly what you suggest, partly because the PSC allows such programs to be figured into their rate structure that the rest of the customers pay for. But these member owned systems are not the same animal, and thus the reason they operate under different rules.

There is one more issue not mentioned here, but in the hearing before the MSSC - there are almost a dozen funds managed by the state to help victims of domestic violence. Part of every traffic ticket, part of every game warden issued ticket, most of the marriage license fees, goes to various domestic violence funds that can be used for this purpose. There are also other state and federal programs - as well as many private charities, but forget them for now since some think the government should be responsible for everything - that have dollars for this purpose.

The PSC has jumped past its authority here, and Kingfish's claim that people who would oppose such an overreach are heartless. Pulling out his friend Heather Spencer (again) to make his case is what is heartless.

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