BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 1315
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   May 20, 2009

                                Kevin De Leon, Chair

                     AB 1315 (Ruskin) - As Amended:  May 5, 2009 

          Policy Committee:                               

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program:  
          No     Reimbursable:               


          This bill:

          1)Provides that the president of the Public Utilities Commission  
            (PUC) shall be designated by the commission rather than by the  

          2)Provides that the commission, rather than the president,  
            directs the actions of the PUC executive director, attorney  
            and staff.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  

          Negligible fiscal impact.


           1)Background  .  Prior to 1999, the president of the PUC was  
            elected by its members.  The commissioners appointed the  
            attorney and executive director, who performed at the  
            direction of the commission.  The PUC has historically been  
            granted broad authority, and some viewed the PUC's  
            independence as less of a virtue and more of a vice.  Rather  
            than being independent, the PUC had been seen to lack  
            accountability.  Supporters of this view cited a series of  
            decisions made by the PUC over the prior 15 years that were  
            contrary to the stated desires of a majority of the  
            Legislature, and in some cases, in contradiction of the  
            desires of the governor.

            SB 33 (Peace)/Chapter 509 of 1999, attempted to address the  


                                                                  AB 1315
                                                                  Page  2

            perceived lack of accountability by the commissioners. It  
            centralized the functioning of the PUC with its president by  
            putting the PUC's executive director and general counsel  
            directly under the control of the president.  It also made the  
            president more directly accountable to the governor by making  
            the president an appointee of the governor.

            There is now concern that having the governor appointed the  
            president instead of the other commissioners has resulted in a  
            lack of collegiality and the unintended creation of a "super  
            commissioner."  The governor can re-appoint that same  
            commissioner as president each term, and that president by  
            statute directs the executive director, the attorney, and the  
            over 1,000 staff.  The remaining commissioners can become less  
            significant, especially when the will of individual  
            commissioners differs from that of the president.

           2)Purpose  .  AB 1315 returns the selection of PUC president and  
            the direction of staff to the pre-SB 33 status.  The author  
            believes this will assist the Legislature and the public with  
            achieving greater independence and accountability from this  
            crucial public agency.  The author states that by having the  
            executive director and the attorney report to the entire  
            commission rather than just the president, this bill will  
            reduce the politicization of internal staffing and procedural  
            decisions, while promoting collegiality and cooperation among  

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Chuck Nicol / APPR. / (916) 319-2081