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PUCs at 2000 - Question TwoState Commissioners

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1995

efforts has introduced sweeping telecommunications reform in Connecticut, but relies on the expertise of the DPUC to pursue the legislative goal of an effectively competitive telecommunications market while protecting the public interest.

Likewise, in December 1994, my fellow commissioners and I undertook an investigation of the restructuring of the electric industry in Connecticut. During the course of our investigation, the Connecticut legislature passed legislation creating a task force to determine how best to implement retail electric competition. At the conclusion of the DPUC's study in July 1995, our report, including numerous recommendations, was presented to the task force. Although the task force will not complete its findings for over a year, the DPUC will continue to offer its expertise and assistance and will implement any policies and procedures required. [End of Smith response]

Response by Nancy McCaffree, Chair, Montana Public Service Commission:

Take a Republican governor, a GOP-controlled State House and Senate, and five elected Democrats on the Montana PSC - not a recipe for warm and cordial relationships. The utility industry, its lobbyists, and legislative supporters saw the makeup of the 1995 legislature as a once-in-a-lifetime window of opportunity.

Like regulators everywhere, the MPSC found itself thoroughly chastised. We were vilified as the antithesis of this new breed of legislators that demand less government and control. These were trying days for an agency whose sole existence is to perform such duties.

When all was said and done, we survived. The MPSC was leaner and meaner, battle scarred, and considerably wiser. In retrospect, I must say that we learned some good lessons. We may have become too smug and complacent and too enthralled in our belief that we are the end-all, know-all in protecting the public.

Because many of the energy and telecommunication battles of the 80's and 90's were pitched in regulatory hearing rooms, we have forgotten that regulation is a legislative function of government. As regulators, we must remember that legislative interference is just legislators seeking to reclaim powers they once delegated to regulatory PUCs. I believe it is the regulators' challenge to convince legislators that the hearing room with all the protection of

administrative law is still a better place to resolve utility issues than the floor of the legislature. We need to remind legislators why they created PUCs like ours, and ask that they only rarely and thoughtfully reclaim issues that we consider better suited for ourselves and our staffs.

To do this we must convince legislators that regulation does have a transitionary role in the immediate future, as we continue down the road to competitive marketplace. Further, we must convince legislators that we are proceeding in a fair manner, with deliberate speed, to accommodate the changes taking place in the industries we have traditionally regulated. If we fail to do both, we can only whine as the legislature steps in and preempts us.

Communication is important. I am doing my part by sending notes of reconciliation to legislative leaders. As Joan Rivers said, "Let's talk." [End of McCaffree response]

Response by Kenneth Gordon, Immediate Past Chairman, Massachusetts