BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                              1

                                 ALEX PADILLA, CHAIR

          AB 1315 -  Ruskin                                 Hearing Date:   
          July 7, 2009               A
          As Amended:         May 5, 2009              FISCAL       B


           Current law  authorizes the Governor to appoint the president of  
          the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), subject to  
          confirmation by the Senate.

           This bill  authorizes the CPUC commissioners to choose a  
          president from among its members.

           Current law  authorizes the CPUC president to direct the CPUC  
          executive director and attorney.

           This bill  deletes that authority, making the executive director  
          and attorney subject to direction by the CPUC.

          Ten years ago, frustrated by the CPUC's independence and lack of  
          accountability, the Legislature changed the structure of the  
          CPUC.  Rather than the CPUC commissioners choosing a president  
          from among its ranks, the Governor was given the authority to  
          choose the president.  Power was also consolidated under the  
          president by giving the president direct authority over the  
          executive director and general counsel, the two most powerful  
          staff positions at the CPUC.  The point of these changes was to  
          increase the CPUC's accountability to the Governor.

          There appears to be no standard organizational structure within  
          state government.  At the California Energy Commission the  
          chairman is appointed by the Governor, while the staff reports  
          to the commission.  At the Coastal Commission and the Integrated  


          Waste Management Board, each elects its own chair from its  
          membership.  At the California Air Resources Board the Governor  
          appoints the Chair while the board appoints its executive  

             1.   The author believes that organizational changes made ten  
               years ago are a failed experiment which has decreased  
               collegiality among commissioners and unintendedly made the  
               president into a "super commissioner".  This has empowered  
               the president to act contrary to the desires of the  
               Legislature, according to the author.

             2.   Opponents argue that the bill will not make the CPUC  
               more responsive to the Legislature and will in fact  
               accomplish the opposite, making the CPUC more insular.   
               There is no evidence to support the claim that the bill  
               will make the CPUC responsive, according to the opponents.   
               They are also concerned that making the Executive Director  
               accountable to all the commissioners will make the CPUC  
               less focused, as the commissioners pursue differing  

             3.   There has been a notable decrease in collegiality among  
               commissions in this decade, predating the current set of  
               commissioners.  While this coincides with the  
               organizational changes which strengthened the president,  
               it's not clear whether this is because of those  
               organizational changes.  It may simply have been because  
               the last several CPUC presidents have had strong  

             4.   Collegiality is not necessarily a prerequisite to sound  
               decision-making, though one of the advantages of  
               decision-making by a commission is that the give and take  
               among commissioners results in better decisions.  When  
               commissioners are disagreeable with each other the give and  
               take quickly deteriorates.  Factionalization can take hold,  
               resulting in decisions made without the benefit of a full  
               consideration of alternate viewpoints.  A strong president  
               can end up dominating the other commissioners, depriving  
               the public of the benefit of the wisdom and judgment of all  
               five commissioners.


             5.   In the end, all this bill does is ensure that whoever  
               becomes president does so with the consent of his or her  
               colleagues.  While this may reduce the accountability of  
               the CPUC to the Governor, a Governor has many ways to  
               influence the CPUC, including controlling the CPUC's  
               budget.  Experience shows that state agencies can function  
               properly whether there is a leader appointed by the  
               Governor or selected from among its membership.  The  
               question of whether the changes in this bill are  
               appropriate may simply rest on whether one is satisfied  
               with the conduct and decision-making of the CPUC.  If there  
               is dissatisfaction sometimes the best way to foster change  
               is simply to shake up the box, no matter how gently.

              6.   Double Referral  - This bill has been double referred to  
               the Senate Committee on Judiciary.  Due to time  
               constraints, if amendments are proposed in Committee these  
               amendments must be taken in the second Committee.

                                    ASSEMBLY VOTES
          Assembly Floor                     (43-27)
          Assembly Appropriations Committee  (11-4)
          Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee                       

          Communications Workers of America


          California Labor Federation
          Consumer Federation of California
          Sierra Club California
          State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO
          The Utility Reform Network

          California Cable and Telecommunications Association
          California Communications Association
          California Public Utilities Commission
          Pacific Gas and Electric Company
          Sempra Energy
          Southern California Edison



          Randy Chinn 
          AB 1315 Analysis
          Hearing Date:  July 7, 2009