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NEWS RELEASE
Apr 08, 2003


CONTACT: Carmen Balber - 310-392-0522 x324

Bill Will Make Utility Commissioners Elected Officials, Ensure Public Accountability

SCA 6 Must Also Prohibit Campaign Contributions by Regulated Industries, Says FTCR
Santa Monica - Consumer advocates announced support today for legislation which would require commissioners be elected to serve on the California Public Utility Commission (PUC), to be heard this afternoon in the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications committee. PUC commissioners, who are currently appointed at the sole discretion of the governor, have established a pattern of anti-consumer actions, said the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

"The Public Utilities Commission has become a body dominated by anti-consumer interests, totally unaccountable to the public. Indeed, the PUC offered the first draft of California's disastrous deregulation plan," said FTCR's letter to committee chair, Senator Debra Bowen. "In order to ensure that the people of California are represented, rather than the utilities or simply the governor, the Legislature should make these constitutional officers elected public officials."

FTCR stressed that, in order for this reform to be effective, it must be amended to prohibit commissioners from accepting campaign contributions from entities regulated by, or with business before, the PUC. Some PUC commissioners, including the current president who is a former executive of a PUC-regulated utility, have come under fire in the media for close ties to regulated industries.

"Last November, California voters soundly rejected the only candidate for insurance commissioner that took industry money as unacceptable," said FTCR consumer advocate, Carmen Balber. "The Legislature must put in place safeguards barring campaign contributions from regulated entities to make sure SCA 6 works. Without a prohibition on campaign cash from regulated industries, the public will be in for a repeat of the scandalous behavior of Chuck Quackenbush."

The PUC has repeatedly taken anti-consumer positions in recent years, including the secret negotiation of a massive bailout of Southern California Edison in direct conflict with the laws of the State of California after the California Legislature rejected the bailout.

SCA 6 (Battin) needs a 2/3 vote in both houses of the Legislature to reach the Governor's desk.


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