CPUC reforms bump ahead, but details are still lacking

30 June 2016 by Steve Blum
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The assembly utilities and commerce committee has approved two senate bills – SB 215 and SB 512 – that are key elements of a proposed package of California Public Utilities Commission reforms, although the details are yet to be worked out. One of the standard practices of the California legislature is for amendments to bills to be worked out behind closed doors after committee members vote to approve them. And that was the explicit understanding yesterday, which was agreed on largely party line votes – democrats tending to favor, republicans not.

The committee also approved SB 1017, which would open up more information submitted by regulated utilities to CPUC. That measure was bitterly opposed by telephone companies, who found a sympathetic ear from chairman Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles), one of the three legislators who joined with governor Brown on Monday to announce the deal. Gatto’s suggested accomodation was to simply exempt information submitted by telecoms companies from disclosure rules. That idea was politely shot down by the measure’s author (and another member of the troika), senator Jerry Hill (D – San Bruno), who said in effect that the intent was to open all of the CPUC’s business to more public scrutiny. No guarantees, though, that the final language will read one way or the other.

A measure that extends broadband facilities subsidies for public housing also moved forward. SB 745 was approved by the committee with largely technical amendments suggested in a previously published analysis.

Yesterday’s votes by Gatto’s committee keep all four bills alive for the purposes of the current legislative session. The real language will likely come to light in August, after lawmakers come back from their summer break. The broad outline of the grand CPUC reform plan was made public on Monday, but the details are still very much in play. Stay tuned.