GOVERNOR BROWN SIGNS LEGISLATION TO BOLSTER TRANSPARENCY, OVERSIGHT AT CPUC
SACRAMENTO - Moving to bolster governance, accountability, transparency and oversight at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a package of bills and called on the Commission to take immediate action on additional reforms.
In June, Brown joined Assemblymember Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, and Sens. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to announce a sweeping Commission reform package. The Legislature passed many of these reforms, but failed to act on other key legislation before the legislative session ended.
"These important reforms cannot wait another year. To that end, I am calling upon the Commission to use its existing authority to take immediate action," said Brown in the signing message that accompanied the legislative action. "Together, these administrative reforms and legislative acts will bring much needed improvement to the Commission."
The bills enact extensive reforms to help open and expand participation in Commission proceedings, improve safety and reform ex parte rules. The bill package includes measures which:
- Reform and expand rules regarding ex parte communications to require commissioners and interested persons to disclose and promptly post the content of ex parte communications online in ratesetting proceedings.
- Authorize the California attorney general to bring an enforcement action in superior court against a decision-maker or employee of the Commission who violates the ex parte communication rules.
- Require transcripts to be made publicly available promptly.
- Create performance criteria for the Commission and executive director.
- Require documents distributed to service lists be docketed.
- Require Commission voting meetings to be held in various regions of the state.
- Make administrative records more open in quasi-legislative proceedings.
- Establish thresholds for the reasonable and timely resolution of proceedings.
- Establish the Office of Safety Advocate within the Commission.
- Increase oversight of excavation and improve enforcement of dig-in safety laws.
In his signing message, the governor called on the Commission to take immediate action on a number of measures left undone by the Legislature to further improve transparency and accountability, including the following reforms:
- Appoint an ethics ombudsman.
- Establish a web portal for the public advisor to receive public complaints and comments.
- Create a streamlined process for more quickly releasing information to the public.
- Improve coordination with other state agencies and departments.
- Increase the Commission's presence outside of San Francisco.
- Work with the California Research Bureau to study the governance of telecommunications service.
The Governor also directed the administration to work with the Commission to develop a reorganization plan to:
- Transfer those duties and responsibilities of the Commission over transportation-related entities that will be better performed by departments within the California Transportation Agency.
- Codify the appointment of all senior executive staff who will serve at the pleasure of the Commission, including the executive director, the general counsel, the internal auditor and the chief administrative law judge.
- Codify the appointment of a deputy executive director for safety and chief internal auditor at the Commission.
The administration will continue to work with the Legislature on additional reform measures included in the original reform package that require legislative approval, including subjecting the CPUC to the judicial review provisions of the California Public Records Act and revisions to improve the CPUC public records and confidentiality statute (§ 583) to retain confidentiality with a more timely release of public information.
The bills signed include:
- AB 2168 by Assemblymember Das G. Williams (D-Carpinteria. Public Utilities Commission Audit Compliance Act of 2016.
- SB 62 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. Public Utilities Commission: Office of the Safety Advocate.
- SB 215 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. Public Utilities Commission.
- SB 512 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. Public Utilities Commission.
- SB 661 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. Protection of subsurface installations.
For full text of the bills, visit http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/.
October 2016 - CMSA Communicator