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.
Assembly bill 57 will become law. Governor Brown announced today that he signed the measure, which would give local governments five months to make a decision on permit applications for new wireless facilities, and three months to decide on additions to existing facilities. If the application is still pending when the clock runs out, it’ll be deemed approved.
Brown vetoed four bills that would have made various changes to the way the California Public Utilities Commission conducts its business, including senate bill 660, which would have put tighter limits on closed door conversations between commissioners (and key staffers) and people with business that’s in front of the commission.
Not quite yet.
Sunday is the last day for California governor Jerry Brown to either veto bills passed by the legislature this summer, or allow them to become law. Amongst the measures in the big stack on his desk right now are several that will affect broadband service and infrastructure, particularly in regards to how it’s regulated.
The bill with the most potential impact is assembly bill 57, which would put teeth in the Federal Communications Commission shot clock for wireless permits. The FCC says that local governments have five months to approve or deny applications for new wireless facilities and three months to deal with changes to existing ones. When local governments miss that deadline, a wireless company can ask a court to, in effect, grant the permit. It’s a time consuming way to go about it, though, and can take as long or longer than just seeing the normal process through. So it rarely happens.
What AB 57 would do is turn the table on cities and counties, and make them go to court to stop the permit from being automatically granted. The bill sailed through the legislature with healthy bipartisan majorities, but the list of no votes grew longer as time went on. That due in great part to the vehement opposition from local governments and their lobbying organisations, who are undoubtedly applying to same to the governor.
Five other bills – AB 825, AB 1023, SB 48, SB 215 and SB 660 – make changes to the way the California Public Utilities Commission does business. SB 660 would have the biggest effect. Among other things, it would put tighter restrictions on private conversations between regulated utilities (and other interested parties) and commissioners and staff.
Typically, governor Brown has given no indication as to which way he’s leaning on any of the measures.