NEBRASKA POWER REVIEW BOARD
December 14, 2018
The 799th meeting of the Nebraska Power Review Board (“the Board” or “PRB”) was held in the Liquor Control Commission hearing room, Nebraska State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska. The roll was called and present were Chairman Reida, Vice Chairman Morehouse, Mr. Grennan, Mr. Hutchison, and Mr. Moen. Executive Director Texel stated that public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on December 6, 2018. All background materials for the agenda items to be acted on were provided to all Board members prior to the meeting and a copy was in each Board member’s notebook. The executive director announced that a copy of the Nebraska Open Meetings Act was on display on the north wall of the room for the public to review, and another copy was available in a three-ring binder on a table at the back of the room. A copy of all materials that the Board would consider was available for public inspection on a table in the back of the room, as well as extra copies of the agenda.
The Board first considered the draft minutes from its November 16, 2018, meeting. The staff did not have any recommended changes. Vice Chairman Morehouse moved to approve the minutes from the November 16 meeting. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 5– 0.
The next agenda item was acceptance of the expense report for the month of November. In November, there was $24,902.92 in personal services, $17,515.65 in operating expenses, and $4,207.52 in travel expenses. The total expenses for November were $46,626.09. The executive director explained that Mr. Grennan had incurred travel expenses related to his Southwest Power Pool (SPP) Regional State Committee (RSC) duties, the Board has not received the reimbursements from those expenses. Mr. Grennan moved to accept the expense report for November. Vice Chairman Morehouse seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen –yes. The motion carried 5– 0.
The next item was a presentation by Southwest Power Pool representatives to update the Board on SPP activities over the past year or so. This is an annual presentation that SPP provides to each state regulatory agency with a member on the RSC. The SPP official that gave the presentation was Paul Suskie, Executive Vice President for Regulatory Policy and General Counsel. Mr. Suskie went through a powerpoint presentation. He covered current SPP statistics concerning issues such as SPP’s membership, power supply mix, integration of renewables, activities of the SPP Holistic Integrated Tarriff Team (HITT), reliability issues, and coordination of seams issues. The Board members thanked Mr. Suskie for coming to Nebraska to update the Board on current SPP events.
The next item on the agenda was the discussion of legislation to amend the Board’s assessment statue, section 70-1020. The Board had previously approved the executive director to take action to pursue legislation to amend the assessment statute. The proposed new language would provide the Board the authority to use a special assessment to collect a portion of the appropriation granted by the Legislature. The importance of this is that it would give the Board the ability to collect less than its full appropriation initially, but if expenses were higher than normal the Board could collect the rest of its appropriation by using the subsequent special assessment. For approximately the past 50 years the Board collected the entire amount appropriated by the Legislature to the agency. The amount collected included a reserve that was set aside for the next fiscal year. If the Board did not use its full appropriation, the assessments the next year were reduced accordingly. The reserve amount maintained by the Board the past several years amounted to approximately three months of the Board’s expenses. The Governor’s Budget Office now decided the Board should collect only what it has historically spent for the past few years, with several months of reserve. This puts the Board in a situation if there was a “worst case scenario” the Board would not have the additional funds to incur this type of expense, since there is no statutory authority for the Board to engage in a special assessment to collect the rest of its appropriation.
Executive Director Texel told the Board he and Rebecca Hallgren, the Board’s business manager, had met with the Governor’s Chief of Staff to explain the reason for the proposed Legislation. Senator Hughes had agreed to sponsor a bill to make the change, but he wanted to know if the Governor was either supportive, or at least would not oppose the proposed bill. The Chief of Staff told the executive director that the Governor was not supportive of the bill, but the Governor’s office would work with the Board to ensure needed funding if a “worst case scenario” occurred. The Governor’s office was concerned that the bill would appear to allow the Board to collect its appropriation twice, which could be perceived as an increase in assessments.
Given what the Chief of Staff had told him, the executive director recommended that the Board not pursue legislation to amend its assessment statute in 2019. Since the Board had authorized the executive director to pursue the legislative change, the executive director thought it would be best if the Board rescinded the direction to pursue the legislative change. Vice Chairman Morehouse moved to have the Board rescind its decision to pursue legislation to amend the language in section 70-1020. Mr. Hutchison seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen –yes. The motion carried 5– 0.
The next item on the agenda was the executive director’s report. Executive Director Texel asked Mr. Grennan if he had any additional information to add regarding the Southwest Power Pool. Mr. Grennan did not have any additional information.
The executive director noted that the next meeting dates are January 25, February 22, and March 22, 2019.
The next item on the agenda was to consider whether to give the executive director a raise similar to that received by rules covered and bargaining unit employees. On January 1, 2019, state employees covered by the bargaining unit will receive a 1.5% pay raise. Governor Ricketts has instituted a new pay plan applicable to rules covered employees called “pay-for-performance.” All code agencies will follow the pay-for-performance plan. Non-code agencies can opt into the plan if they want. Executive Director Texel said he opted to be part of the pay-for-performance plan because if the agency does not participate, it cannot give out Excellence in Leadership awards, formerly known as Employee of the Year awards. He wants to be able to give out the Excellence in Leadership awards, so he opted in. Rules covered employees under the pay-for-performance plan will receive the 1.5% raise only if they have a “satisfactory” or better on their performance review. The Board’s paralegal is covered by the bargaining unit, so she will receive a 1.5% raise on January 1. The business manager is a rules-covered employee, so she will receive the raise as long as she received a satisfactory or above score on her last performance review, which she did. Under the Governor’s new program, if any rules-covered employee does not receive his or her 1.5% raise, the funds allocated in the agency’s budget for that raise can be given to another employee that is high-performing. The executive director is a discretionary employee, so the Board sets his salary and is not subject to normal rule, but the Board is limited by what the agency’s personal services funding limitation can absorb. Executive Director Texel told the Board he had discussed an option with representatives from the State Personnel Division. He asked if he would not receive the full 1.5% budgeted for his raise, would that free up those funds to allocate to a rules-covered employee. In the Board’s case, the only employee eligible to receive such funds is the business manager. Unfortunately, he has no discretion to allocate additional amounts to the Board’s paralegal because her position is covered under the bargaining unit. Otherwise she would be eligible for an additional amount, also. State Personnel said yes, giving the additional funds not allocated to an executive director to a rules-covered employee is acceptable and authorized within the pay-for-performance plan. Based on this confirmation, Executive Director Texel recommended that the Board limit his raise to 1%. That would allow him to give the business manager the funds budgeted for the additional one-half percent raise based on his wage scale to the business manager. The Board asked what that would do for the business manager’s raise. The executive director responded that due to the wage difference, the half percent raise not allocated to him would translate to approximately a one percent raise for the business manager. That would give the business manager an approximate 2.5% pay increase. The executive director said the Board would only vote on his raise. He would need to take the actions necessary to reallocate the funds to the business manager. The Board members wanted to clarify that the additional amount given to the business manager would be permanent, and not a bonus or one-time award. The executive director confirmed that the raise would be a permanent pay raise. Mr. Grennan moved to approve a one percent pay increase to the executive director’s salary, effective on January 1, 2019. Vice Chairman Morehouse seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen –yes. The motion carried 5– 0.
Mr. Hutchison moved to adjourn the meeting. Vice Chairman Morehouse seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 5 – 0. The meeting was adjourned at 11:14 a.m.
Timothy J. Texel
Executive Director and General Counsel