Governor Brown says CPUC reforms needed, but not the ones passed by the legislature

by Steve Blum • , ,

These aren’t the bills I’m looking for.

Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed five bills that would have changed the way the California Public Utilities Commission does business. The announcement was made on Friday, two days before the constitutional deadline.

AB 825, AB 1023 and SB 48 would have required more disclosure, via web postings, of both the commission’s work and those who have business before it. SB 48 would have also changed some of the ethics and procedural rules the commission operates under, and require it meet at least six times a year in Sacramento. SB 18 would have required commissioners to take a public vote any time it spent money to hire outside lawyers to defend the against criminal investigations. That’s not a theoretical problem: commission staff decided to spend $5 million to lawyer up in response to a criminal investigation of former president Michael Peevey’s (and others’) off the record dealings with utility executives.

SB 660 was the most far reaching of the proposed reform measures. It would have put much tighter limits on private conversations – ex parte communications, in the jargon – between commissioners and decision-level staffers, on the one hand, and people with business in front of the commission, including lobbyists, lawyers and executives of regulated utilities and advocacy groups that oppose them.

In his veto messages, Brown said he thinks reforms are necessary, but, in effect, said the legislative scatter gun approach on his desk was a poor way to do it

There are many important and needed reforms in this package of bills. Unfortunately, taken together there are various technical and conflicting issues that make the over fifty proposed reforms unworkable. Some prudent prioritization is needed…

I am directing my office to work with the authors on drafting these reforms and to ensure the Commission receives the necessary resources to implement them swiftly and effectively.

Swiftly, in this case though, likely means a year or more from now.