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Sen. Legg wants term limits for Florida Public Service Commission members

Published Feb. 12, 2014

A Tampa Bay area lawmaker wants to reform the state Public Service Commission by limiting members to two consecutive terms and requiring them to live in one of five districts the Legislature would create.

Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, said he hopes to foster more accountability for the regulatory body that oversees utility matters.

At issue is a widely held perception that the commission has become too cozy with the utilities they regulate. Some lawmakers have criticized the PSC for failing to aggressively scrutinize spending on nuclear projects.

"By establishing five representative districts and limiting commissioners to no more than two consecutive terms, Senate Bill 964 holds the Public Service Commission to the same accountability standards as Florida's governor, Cabinet and Legislature," Legg said.

Cindy Muir, a PSC spokeswoman, said the commission does not comment on pending legislation.

Currently, commissioners can serve an unlimited number of four-year terms, if reappointed.

This has allowed Commissioner Lisa Edgar to serve three consecutive terms. She sparked heated debate last spring during her reconfirmation. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, led the opposition. As chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, he had previously voted to confirm her but decided to raise concerns about her voting record.

Latvala referenced 2009 reports about text messages she and other PSC staff and members gave to power company executives, potentially allowing the utility to communicate directly with them outside of public view and without a paper trail. And he noted her personal bankruptcy, which he said did not color his opinion of her confirmation.

He also said she could have more aggressively held utilities accountable before charging customers for the preconstruction costs for nuclear power plants.

Latvala and Legg represent areas served by Duke Energy, which last year permanently closed the Crystal River nuclear plant after a botched upgrade project and canceled the proposed Levy County nuclear plant because it was no longer feasible. Duke customers are paying billions of dollars for the projects that won't deliver any electricity.

Some senators defended Edgar as a knowledgeable state regulator appointed by three governors, and she won reappointment.

Legg's bill, filed Tuesday, would set the term limits for commissioners appointed after July 1 from serving more than two consecutive terms. The five districts would align with the five state District Courts of Appeal, with each member of the commission residing in a different district.