Gino DiCaro

CPUC conflict standards bill moving along

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, June 17, 2005 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Legislation imposing tough new conflict of interest standards for members of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has cleared the Senate and will be heard on June 20th in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.

While current law prohibits a CPUC commissioner from having a financial interest in any person or corporation subject to CPUC regulation, SB 204 (Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey) goes well beyond that by precluding membership on the CPUC by any person who, during the two years preceding appointment, received a substantial portion of his or her income from any person or corporation subject to CPUC regulation.

The bill, which is opposed by CMTA, essentially excludes persons who have been employed by regulated companies from serving on the CPUC to the disadvantage of both regulated companies and consumers.  

SB 204 appears to assume that working for a regulated entity undermines one's ability to serve as a commissioner and to engage in a fair and objective analysis of policy issues.  Moreover, the bill excludes persons with recent industry experience from serving on the CPUC but does not exclude persons who worked for or on behalf of public interest groups that advocated before the CPUC.     

The complex and technical nature of CPUC deliberations require expertise on the part of commissioners that is not easy to find.  SB 204 limits the ability of this and future governors to find qualified commissioners and effectively bars from service potential commissioners who should not be excluded by virtue of their prior employment.  

The existing CPUC conflict of interest provisions and prohibition against CPUC commissioners having a financial interest in any person or corporation subject to CPUC regulation are appropriate; SB 204's ban on prior employment is not.

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