Utility reform game clock ticks down in Sacramento

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Final minutes of play.

With three days left in the legislative session, key California Public Utilities Commission reform bills are still pending and still subject to haggling over final language.

The big one is assembly bill 2903, by assemblyman Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles). It makes a number of changes in the way the commission does business, including transferring some transportation-related oversight duties to other state agencies, and sets up an undefined reevaluation of the way broadband and telephone companies are regulated. Technically, AB 2903 is in the hands of a senate committee, but as a practical matter it’s still subject to closed door negotiations between legislators, the governor’s office and industry lobbyists.

Three bills by senator Jerry Hill (D – San Bruno) are pending in the assembly: senate bill 62 would create a new safety advocate office at the CPUC, SB 512 opens up some of the commission’s work to more public scrutiny, and SB 1017, which originally would have made it easier to release information filed by utilities but has since been watered down to mostly symbolic value. But unless and until final votes are taken, nothing is certain.

SB 215 by senator Mark Leno (D – San Francisco) which would tighten restrictions on private conversations between utilities and commissioners, and top staffers, is already on the governor’s desk. So is AB 2168, by assemblyman Das Williams (D – Santa Barbara), which would require the CPUC to post utility audit and inspection reports on the web. Williams’ bill wasn’t part of the grand compromise between the governor and legislators announced in June, so it might not be on the fast track for approval.

The deadline for lawmakers to act is midnight Wednesday.