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Crist calls House bid to reform PSC a "gross power grab"

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist summed up his reaction to the House proposal to reform the Public Service Commission with four words Friday: "I would veto it."

"It sounds frankly like a gross power grab against the will of the people and consumers," he told the Times/Herald.

The plan unveiled by the House Energy and Utilities Policy Committee aims to solidify legislative control over water, sewer and electricity by moving the PSC's technical advisers to a newly created Office of Regulatory Staff. That staff would be controlled by the Legislature and have the power to open a case asking the PSC to raise or reduce rates.

Crist believes the concept is misguided because it allows the Legislature to control the nominations of PSC commissioners, the appointment of the director of the regulatory staff and policies the staff implements.

"If the bill in its current form were to pass, I would veto it without a doubt. It's ridiculous," he said.

He suggested that the proposal, which could disqualify one or two PSC members Crist has appointed, is also a retaliation for the board's votes last year against rate increases sought by Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy. The final rates allowed the companies to earn the same profits this year as last year.

"It looks like an exact reaction to the fact that the PSC didn't let those rates go through the roof," Crist said.

Members of the House Energy Committee — which discussed the House bill at a workshop this week — suggested that, under the current system, the governor has too much influence over the PSC while the Legislature, which controls the nominating process for appointments, has too little.

Crist said he supports a Senate bill to tighten the ethics rules for PSC commissioners and their staff members. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, passed out of the Senate, 39-1, during the first week of session.

"If they pass that bill, I would sign it," Crist said.

Crist calls House bid to reform PSC a "gross power grab" 03/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 19, 2010 8:10pm]
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