Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Putting the Public First in State Services


By Ennis Leon Jacobs Jr.

As a former chair of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), I am concerned that recent actions in Tallahassee to dismantle the PSC send a message that the views of the working and bill-paying public count for nothing. Those actions show contempt for balancing the interests of ratepayers with politics.

What other meaning could be derived from the fact that immediately following a vote against record rate-increase requests, four members of the PSC were removed and the public counsel who advocated for ratepayer interests was asked to reapply for his position?

A strong, independent and objective regulatory agency is necessary to oversee utility ratemaking and operation. The legislature recognized that back in 1978, and it remains true today as utility services expand and grow more complex. Just look at your monthly bills that are filled with obscure surcharges and rising prices. But the recent actions to subvert the independence of the PSC threaten to undermine the agency’s credibility and erode public trust. At the moment, the balance seems to be shifting away from consumer protection and toward the utilities and big-money politics.

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