Telecoms left out of new CPUC reform bill

12 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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California Public Utilities Commission reforms are back on the table in Sacramento, but the latest proposal doesn’t include anything specific about review or reorganisation of how telecommunications companies are regulated. Senate bill 19 was introduced by senator Jerry Hill (D – San Bruno) as new lawmakers were sworn in and the new legislative session began last week. He is the sole survivor of the trio that negotiated with governor Brown to come to agreement on a package of bills aimed at overhauling the CPUC last year. The other two – senator Mark Leno (D – San Francisco) and assemblyman Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles) – left office because they had run out the clock on their term limits.

Some of those bills didn’t pass. When the governor signed the bills that did make it to his desk, he added some instructions, telling the head of the state transportation agency to start the process of taking over some of the CPUC’s transportation related oversight duties and asking the CPUC to “work with the California Research Bureau to study the governance of telecommunications service”. Both were key items in the bills that failed.

As introduced by Hill, SB 19 puts a legislative stamp of approval on the governor’s executive transfer of transportation regulation away from the CPUC, but it says nothing about reviewing how telecoms are regulated. He seems content to let the CPUC and the state library, which runs the research bureau, plug away at it on their own.

Other measures that did make it into the bill include tighter ethics requirements, not least of which is a rule that creates a two year waiting period before former utility executives can be appointed to a seat on the commission, and easier access to help and information, including a provision making it easier for the public to sue for access to CPUC records.