Why should you care about appointments to Florida's Public Service Commission (PSC)? Because who gets appointed will directly affect your wallet for years to come (if you live in Florida, that is).
The PSC is charged with protecting consumers from unreasonable prices and bad service from the utility companies that we depend on.
As I've blogged about repeatedly over the past two years, most members of the PSC have been suspiciously cozy with the utility industry--an industry whose interests are sort of at odds with the interests of us consumers.
The two welcome exceptions are consumer-friendly Commissioners Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop, whom Gov. Charlie Crist appointed in 2007.
Not only have Argenziano and Skop actively sought to protect consumers' interests, but they also made a point of spotlighting ethically questionable things that have been going on at the PSC over the past few years. (Examples are linked at the end of this post.)
Unfortunately, Argenziano's and Skop's terms are almost up. Both commissioners are seeking reappointment by Gov. Crist.
All sorts of people who pay attention to the PSC support the re-appointment of Argenziano and Skop--precisely because they've proven to be pro-consumer and anti-corruption.
Here's part of the Miami Herald's endorsement:
"In a year when anti-incumbency is all the rage, we can name at least two incumbents who deserve a second term: Florida Public Service Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano and Commissioner Nathan Skop, an engineer and lawyer with an MBA. They have a solid record of making informed, impartial decisions in regulating the state's power, communications, natural gas and water industries.
"Their four-year terms are coming to an end, and both Ms. Argenziano and Mr. Skop deserve reappointment. The PSC nominating council -- comprised of 12 members picked by Senate and House leaders -- should recommend their reappointment to Gov. Charlie Crist. Unfortunately, legislative leaders seem intent on retiring any commissioners who don't rubber stamp industry projects." (Miami Herald)
In a recent editorial, the Tampa Tribune recently explained:
"In theory, the prestigious panel [the PSC] is insulated from improper pressure and politics, much like a judge.
"In practice, some of the political wires have been stripped bare by campaign contributions the utilities have made to loyal lawmakers. Political sparks have been flying.
"'You have to look over your shoulder,' says PSC Commissioner Nathan Skop, who has dared to speak out against excesses, such as the abuse of corporate jets, a clean-energy program that spent too little on clean energy and a staff that appeared cozy with utilities they were monitoring.
"'I'll probably lose my job because I've chosen to do my job,' he tells us."
Then there's the Orlando Sentinel:
"State lawmakers talked last session about reforming the Public Service Commission, but didn't actually fix it.
"Now they, and the PSC nominating council that helps narrow the slate of candidates, have yet another opportunity to send a message about the PSC's fairness. They can do so by placing chairwoman Nancy Argenziano and Commissioner Nathan A. Skop on the short list for new terms.
"Both have served the PSC in a manner consistent with what Floridians expect in utility regulators. They have asked tough questions from the dais. They have pressed the utilities to make their case, and they have avoided scandal.
"Those are not conclusions that state ratepayers have been able to come to for every PSC member in recent years. The PSC has often made headlines for the wrong reasons, mostly because it got caught being too cozy with the power, communications, natural gas and water utilities that it's supposed to regulate.
"As a result, the PSC earned an unwanted but understandable reputation as a body too willing to accommodate the regulated monopolies under its watch.
"Argenziano and Skop have, thankfully, helped break that perception."
If you live in Florida and care about your utility rates, you might email your legislator (or local newspaper) and state your support for Skop and Argenziano.
Related Buck Naked Politics Posts:Led by Minority, Fla. Public Service Commissioners Stand up for Public