A bill that would stop broke utilities from charging their ratepayers for executive bonuses?and would deny tax benefits associated with those cash payouts?could soon contain new language. Staffers for Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), author of AB 2303, say the bill could be amended by the end of the month. Leno?s office declined further comment on the measure, which appears to put Pacific Gas & Electric in the cross hairs. The utility?s decision to hand out $84 million in bonuses to 17 executive officers in December 2003, despite the fact that PG&E was in the midst of resolving its bankruptcy proceeding in federal court, has also drawn the ire of state regulators (see <i>Circuit<\/i>, Jan. 9, 2004). PG&E also refused to discuss AB 2303. According to current bill language, any ?insolvent? utility would be required to hold shareholders, not ratepayers, responsible for bonuses. In addition, utilities would be unable to deduct bonus costs from their corporate taxes during periods of insolvency. AB 2303?s definition of ?insolvent? would apply to a utility that ?has ceased to pay its debts in the ordinary course of business . . . cannot pay its debts as they become due . . . or [its] liabilities exceed [its] assets.? Some Capitol sources, however, challenged the notion that PG&E would be subject to the bill, claiming that the utility was never actually insolvent. In addition, utility shareholders are already on the hook for bonus payments, they say. The California Public Utilities Commission is examining whether PG&E illicitly included last year?s bonus costs in its current rate case request; a decision on the issue has not yet been proposed. Calls to the office of CPUC president Michael Peevey regarding the status of the inquiry were not returned before press time. Because AB 2303 would make a change to the state?s tax code, two-thirds of both the Assembly and the Senate would have to approve the bill before it could become law. The measure could get hung up on party-line votes, but Sacramento watchers indicated that some Republican lawmakers are rankled over PG&E?s decision to line executive pockets with money that could have gone to shareholders. The Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee will discuss the bill during an April 12 hearing. Also up for consideration April 12 are two bills by Assemblymember Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach). AB 2685 calls for the creation of an Energy Independence Board within the state?s Office of Research and Planning, which would bring along the development of power projects with output less than 50 MW. The California Energy Commission handles proposals of 50 MW or larger. The board would include representatives from a number of state agencies, including the Air Resources Board, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the CEC. The commission?s Claudia Chandler declined to comment on the CEC?s proposed role but noted that AB 2685 might help make it easier for projects that must navigate regulations of local jurisdictions. ?Local regs have a tendency to contradict or inhibit what the state?s goal is,? and renewable energy systems can be especially difficult to coordinate, she said. Oropeza?s AB 2432 would require utilities suffering power outages to give their customers updates about the blackout. When a customer has been without electricity for 26 hours, utilities would have to report every 8 hours?in writing, and delivered to the client?s address?about the progress of repairs and when service would likely be restored. AB 2432 would allow people to ?make informed decisions? about protecting goods and property, such as food and medicine, and protect public safety, according to the text of the bill. Utilities contacted for this article did not or would not comment about the measure. A source inside Southern California Edison, however, said the utility would probably oppose AB 2432, since the need to restore power during an outage would seem to be hindered by the cost and trouble of sending personnel door to door to deliver written reports to customers.