It’ll be up to the California senate to decide whether or not to put the future of the California Public Utilities Commission on the November general election ballot. The assembly approved assembly constitutional amendment 11 on Thursday. If it gets on the ballot and voters approve it, the CPUC would lose its special constitutional status as an independent agency.
The state legislature would then have to decide how utilities – energy, telecoms, water and transportation – will be regulated in California. It would be a reversal of a decision made more than a hundred years ago to move that authority out of the political melee in Sacramento. Even if lawmakers decided to keep the CPUC around in one form or another, it would be subject to the same oversight by the legislature and the governor as any other state department.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favor – 61 ayes to 9 noes, with 10 members not voting. There was a partisan tinge to the opposition, but nothing like a party line vote. Republicans cast seven of the noes, and accounted for eight of the abstentions, but that still left 13 joining with all but four democrats in the aye column. Since a two-thirds vote – 54 out of 80 – was required, republicans could have blocked it if they considered it important to do so.
In order for the proposed amendment to make it onto this November’s ballot, the senate has to act by the end of the month – since it’s a constitutional amendment, it doesn’t go to the governor for his signature. If the senate approves it after the deadline, the statewide vote would have to wait until 2018, unless a special election was called.