Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Electricity Deregulation

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, March 30, 2006

The MD GOP put this out.

Interesting perspective.

Deregulation continues to take center stage in Annapolis. Following the 1999 anti-consumer and anti-free market deregulation legislation Senate President Mike Miller muscled through the General Assembly at the urging of Enron and other big energy special interests and the removal of the price caps insisted on by former Governor Parris Glendening, Governor Ehrlich is once again left to clean up the mess created by the short-sighted policies of the liberal monopoly. This week, Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch, along with partisan Democrats, are projecting their failures onto the current Public Service Commission (PSC). Never mind that the Public Service Commission reached out to lawmakers 22 times over 15 months to warn about impending electricity rate increases. The PSC got nothing but blank stares from lawmakers in
return. Mike Miller is now attempting to pull a bait and switch on the people of Maryland as he furiously attempts to hide that he fought hard for electric dereg in the first place.

Despite separation of powers and the three branches of government, the Senate has passed legislation to remove the appointment power of the governor to the PSC, an executive branch of state government, and instead give the General Assembly the power to appoint the members. Miller and Busch cry “cronies.” Yet this ignores the “cronies” that sat on the commission prior to the election of our Republican governor.

As columnist Barry Rascovar wrote back in 1999, “[Governor Glendening’s] PSC appointments raised concerns as well. One of his picks, J. Joseph "Max" Curran III, is the 33-year-old son of the state's attorney general [and brother-in-law of guv wannabe Marty O’Malley]. He also ran a strong race for state delegate in [former state Senator and current subject of a federal indictment Thomas] Bromwell's district last year — despite having been denied a place on the senator's ticket in the general election.Now young Mr. Curran is out of the political arena — and thus out of Mr. Bromwell's hair. He is safely ensconced on the PSC, though he has no background in this highly complex regulatory field.Joining Mr. Curran on the PSC is former state Sen. Catherine Riley of Harford County, a political lobbyist for the governor during the past few legislative sessions. Her appointment comes after the governor failed in the General Assembly to block electric deregulation or to stack the PSC in his favor by expanding the commission's size.Does this bode ill for the implementation of electric deregulation? Will crucial PSC decisions be delayed while the new members take a crash course in regulatory issues? Will the new commissioners give the panel a more political tilt?” (Glendening picks cronies over quality for some key posts, The Baltimore Sun, June 6, 1999)

Here’s how the PSC legislation, otherwise known as the Schisler Bill, was rammed through the legislative process in only 3 days:
Last Friday, the Senate suspends the rules to introduce the bill late and at the same time the rules are suspended to refer the bill to the Senate Finance Committee.
At this point the bill is scheduled for public hearing at 1:00pm,Tuesday, March 27th.
Monday afternoon at 4:30 the on-line hearing schedule is changed announcing the hearing will now occur at 6:00pm THAT SAME EVEING (1 1/2 hours notice of the hearing change.)
6:00 pm The bill has a hearing in Finance.
6:30 pm The bill is voted out of Committee (a mere half hour debate).
8:00 pm The bill is placed on the second reading calendar on the Senate Floor. The bill is then laid over for one day.
Tuesday the bill passes 2nd reading.
Wednesday the bill passes 3rd reading in the Senate morning session
Thursday the bill is placed on the House agenda for their afternoon session on
the floor. Here’s the bill and the fast and furious documentation: BILL INFO-2006 Regular Session-SB 1102

Why do we need a 90 day session when we can pass legislation in only 3?
Normally legislators would suffer a serious case of whiplash from the breakneck speed with which they’re trying to provide political cover to Miller and the other champions of deregulation in the legislature. But when your party has a monopoly on the legislative process, you can do what you want. Rather than addressing the looming price spike, Miller and Busch are attacking the messenger and blaming the PSC when they should be working with the Governor to actually fix the problem. This November, we need to deregulate the Maryland General Assembly by voting in more Republicans and allow real competition

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