Texas lawmakers pass bills addressing power grid failure

The Texas Legislature, as promised, addressed the failures of the power grid that paralyzed the state in February.

The House and Senate passed some bills that will reform the state's main power grid, but Texans won't get any direct help with their electricity bills.

One bill would require some electricity generators to either make upgrades to prepare for extreme winter weather or face a fine.

Not all natural gas facilities would have to make changes. Only those that have been deemed critical will be required to make the alterations.

The House wanted to use the state's rainy day fund to help pay for the upgrades, but the Senate removed that plan.

Another bill will help cover debts owed to the state's electric grid operator, ERCOT.

During the February storm, the wholesale price of electricity shot up to the maximum price and stayed that way for 32 hours.

Wholesale electricity customers were overcharged by more than $16 billion.

The Senate version of the bill included assistance for residential retail customers to help them with their electricity bills, but the House stripped that out.

A frustrated Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said help must come for Texans during a special session.

"We lost bills, and we lost help for ratepayers because the clock ran out on the House because it was managed poorly," he said. "That's the bottom line."

Another bill makes changes to ERCOT's board of directors. There would be 11 instead of 16.

A majority of those board members would be appointed by a committee made up of the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House — giving politicians more power over the board.

Critics say the final versions of these bills do not go far enough to prevent further disasters and protect consumers.