TALLAHASSEE — Consensus is building in the Florida Legislature to make the Public Service Commission operate more like judges by banning commissioners and their staffers from communicating directly with the utilities they regulate.
Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, the lawyer who represents the public before the PSC, told the House Energy and Utilities Committee on Wednesday that he thinks it's time to revamp state law "to take a very strong look at commissioners acting like the judiciary."
State Sen. Mike Fasano on Wednesday received a draft of legislation to adopt a similar communication ban, patterned after recommendations from a 1993 grand jury report that were rejected by the PSC. His bill has the support of Senate President Jeff Atwater.
Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, said he is also drafting legislation to require all utility-related communication, written and electronic, be public and recorded "much like any court proceeding requires."
The House committee got a primer Wednesday on the ethics rules governing the PSC and its staff in response to news reports about the cozy relationship the agency has with utilities executives.
PSC executive director Mary Bane told the House committee the commission is preparing to have its own workshop on Nov. 24 to discuss proposed reforms.
The workshop will take public testimony and address tightening commission rules, she said.
The draft proposal by Fasano, R-New Port Richey, adopts and expands the 1993 grand jury report by requiring that "any oral or written communication between a commissioner or commission staff and a representative of a utility regulated by the commission must be made available to the public."