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PUCs at 2000 - Question TwoState Commissioners

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1995

caught up in the controversial proposed legislation on which they are being heavily lobbied.

State regulators should work closely with state legislators, especially now when the utility environment is changing so fast and so drastically. Legislation may be necessary or helpful to accommodate the transition to a more competitive utility environment. And the ability to get good legislation passed may depend on our relationship with the legislature. [End of Mueller response]

Response by Cody L. Graves, Chairman, Oklahoma Corporation Commission:

The only way I can truly meet my obligations under the Oklahoma Constitution is to work closely with the legislature. As telecommunication technology changes on what seems to be a daily basis, I must educate, inform, and work with the legislature to revise statutory language that in many instances hasn't been altered in over 60 years. Failure to work with the legislature to resolve these kinds of differences is a failure to meet your responsibilities as a regulator.

The Oklahoma legislature has shown a great deal of interest in utility policy over the last several years. They established a Commission on Natural Gas Policy to review all aspects of the natural gas market from production to consumption. They also established a special legislative committee to review telecommunications policy on an ongoing basis. More recently, the legislature has begun to review policy changes in the electric utility. At all times, our commission staff has participated in the process. Perhaps the most

important function we can perform is to inform, advise, and manage the process of change. Many times, the legislature does not have the luxury of time to really analyze the myriad of issues involved with changing utility policies. We can play a very important role by providing indepth analysis of issues. We can afford to spend six months or a year working through the policy changes. But we can only do that when the legislature understands the role we are playing and, more importantly, respects the judgments we make. Nothing could be worse than to have the legislature make sweeping changes in utility policy on the basis of limited hearings, if any, during a statutorily mandated 90-day session. That is not to say we don't have differences with our legislature; we do. However, we have made a concerted effort since 1992 to work closely with the governor and the Democratic and Republican leadership in the legislature. The issues are too big, and the stakes too high, to do otherwise. [End of Graves response]

Response by Robert J. Hix, Chairman, Colorado Public Utilities Commission:

As an agency of state government, the Colorado PUC has a very good relationship with the legislature. Such was not always the case, and a great deal of credit for that improved relationship goes to the PUC director, who manages our operations. Director Bruce Smith joined the PUC in 1992 and has successfully cultivated an enhanced level of communication between the PUC and the state legislature. When circumstances have required legislative changes in the regulation of major aspects of the telecommunications, electric, natural gas, and transportation markets, the PUC,