Requires that at least one commissioner of the public service commission have experience in utility consumer advocacy.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public service law, in relation to requiring at least one commissioner of the public service commission to have experience in utility consumer advocacy
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: By requiring that at least one member of the Public Service Commission must be an experienced consumer advocate, this bill will help restore the effectiveness of that body in ensuring that public utilities operate in the best interest of the public.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Bill §1 amends subdivision 1 of §4 of the Public Service to add a requirement that at least one commissioner of the Public Service Commission (PSC) must have experience in utility consumer advocacy.
EFFECTS OF PRESENT LAW WHICH THIS BILL WOULD ALTER: Other than provisions for political party balance, there are currently no statutory standards for appointments to the PSC. This stands in marked contrast to statutes in many other states, which provide various mechanisms for determining qualifications for utility regulators -- including requirements in two of our neighboring states that at least one commissioner must have experience in consumer protection and advocacy.
JUSTIFICATION: The Public Service Commission is responsible for overseeing the operations of "public utilities" -- providers of energy, telecommunications and cable services that provide essential services through the use of public rights-of-way and similar common resources. It has long been recognized that, as was stated by then-Governor Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, the PSC is not a "mere arbitrator" but acts "as agent of the public" in seeing that utilities "do two things: first, give people adequate service; second, charge reasonable rates...."
In recent years, many people believe that the PSC has strayed from its core mission of ensuring consumers receive adequate service at reasonable rates. To rectify this situation, this legislation would require that at least one PSC commissioner must have experience in advocating for the interests of utility consumers. This provision is already in force in the State of Connecticut (C.G.S. 516-2). Another of our neighbors, Massachusetts, similarly requires that one of its commissioners must have a background and experience in consumer protection and advocacy issues (Mass. Gen. Laws title 25, 52).
Placing a dedicated consumer representative on the PSC will help ensure that the interests of working families, small businesses and other rate payers are not subordinated to the interests of public utilities and other commercial interests that are already well-represented in PSC proceedings.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Thirtieth day after becoming law, and will apply to any appointments to the PSC made on or after such date.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 2517 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE January 24, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sen. GIANARIS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Energy and Telecommuni- cations AN ACT to amend the public service law, in relation to requiring at least one commissioner of the public service commission to have expe- rience in utility consumer advocacy THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 1 of section 4 of the public service law, as amended by chapter 155 of the laws of 1970, is amended to read as follows: 1. There shall be in the department of public service a public service commission, which shall possess the powers and duties hereinafter speci- fied, and also all powers necessary or proper to enable it to carry out the purposes of this chapter. The commission shall consist of five members, to be appointed by the governor, by and with the advice and consent of the senate. A commissioner shall be designated as chairman of the commission by the governor to serve in such capacity at the pleasure of the governor or until his term as commissioner expires whichever first occurs. AT LEAST ONE COMMISSIONER SHALL HAVE EXPERIENCE IN UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCACY. No more than three commissioners may be members of the same political party unless, pursuant to action taken under subdivi- sion two, the number of commissioners shall exceed five, and in such event no more than four commissioners may be members of the same poli- tical party. S 2. This act shall take effect on the thirtieth day after it shall have become a law and shall apply to appointments made on or after such date.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD05782-01-1