PSC reform bill in doubt as session nears end, Atwater says

The outlook for a Public Service Commission reform bill passing this legislative session doesn’t look good, Senate President Jeff Atwater said Thursday. And he added that passage of a renewable energy bill is in question.

The 60-day legislative session ends Friday. SB 1034 would extend a ban on lobbying to top commission aides and provides fines for prohibited “ex parte” communications with commissioners in pending cases. The Senate passed the SB 1034 on March 3, the second day of the legislative session.

The House version of the bill, HB 7209 (formerly EUP4), was filed March 31. That bill called for creating an Office of Regulatory Staff under the governor and Cabinet, removing staff from the PSC. It also required a bachelor’s degree for PSC members in a move that commission Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano said was aimed at removing her for being “truthful.” The PSC restructuring was taken out as the House replaced the Senate bill with the House version.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey and sponsor of SB 1034, has been in negotiations with Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando and chairman of the House Energy & Utilities Policy Committee. “It may not get done,” Atwater said. “And I will be disappointed. Because we put that as a high priority … Here we are the night before finishing and it doesn’t look like it will get completed.”

As far HB 7229, which would allow major utilities to recover costs for renewable energy projects, Atwater said he can’t make a prediction on its outcome. An on Friday attempt to amend portions of the bill onto another energy bill, SB 2322, led to the bill being temporarily passed. “I’m still hopeful but there are so many different players that are trying to — I think regrettably — weigh in,” Atwater said.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)