CPUC Elections Bill Hits a Snag

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, July 18, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

A proposed constitutional amendment to create an elected California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), consisting of seven commissioners elected by district, was temporarily put on hold by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SCA 6 (Jim Battin, R-La Quinta) was placed on the fiscal "suspense file. Legislation is placed on the "suspense file" when the fiscal impact of a bill exceeds $150,000.

According to a committee staff analysis, the increased cost for two additional commissioners, additional staff and district offices would amount to as much as $2.3 million annually, plus a one-time expenditure of between $300,000 to $400,000 for increased costs to the state to put the measure on the ballot.

The next committee action will take place in late August, when the committee will vote whether to keep the bill on "suspense" or move it along to the next step in the process: the Senate floor.

CMTA strongly opposes SCA 6. Replacing appointed commissioners with elected commissioners would politicize the CPUC and adversely impact the quality of CPUC deliberations. The commission workload and ability to meet deadlines would be impacted as well, with commissioners forced by political necessity to spend time away from their commission duties, raising campaign funds and running for re-election.

The election of commissioners by district would pit regions of the state, and the service territories of the investor-owned utilities services, against each other, as opposed to the current system where commissioners serve at large and represent the interests of all ratepayers across the state.

The present method of appointing commissioners, subject to Senate confirmation, with each commissioner representing the broader interests of all ratepayers is preferable to the politicization of the Commission that would inevitably result with the enactment of the proposed constitutional amendment.
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