Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

General Assembly Whacked Again

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Courts struck down the General Assembly attempt to fire the PSC as illegal and unconstitutional.  No one is going to jail of course (though maybe we should consider it).

This has got to be tiring for Senate President Mike Miller.  Once again in his blind ambition to whack Governor Bob Ehrlich he got whacked himself.  Three major bills (Wal Mart “Fair Shair Health Care Bill, and early voting, and now this).

I think that the General Assembly could have accomplished what it wanted  if they had worked with the adminstration to write with clean legislation but they were determined to run rough shod over Ehrlich and flex their muscle in public.  Instead they are repeatedly embarassed in court and the papers.

If they really wanted to accomplish marquee legislation then why couldn’t they come up with something that would stand up in court?  I don’t believe that they had the time nor the inclination to do so because they were more focused on getting Ehrlich.  Even the Court opinion says Senate Bill 1 only applied to Bob Ehrlich.

The Bill then provided that at the next round of appointments of Commissioners the statute would automatically revert back to its prior configura tion (as to the appointment of Commissioners) and whoever was Governor at that particu lar time would have the same duties and responsibilities the Governor had on January 1, 2006. In other words, the statute would, in essence, only apply to the present Governor.

Now of course the spin continues to be that the PSC and Ehrlich are responsible for the 72% rate hikes even though none of these people were around when Miller pushed deregulation through 7 years ago.  Capping rates was a great idea.  However, he lost the bet.  Capping rates stymied competition and the market prices went the wrong way.  In the Court’s own words:

The situation arose from legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 1999 that partially deregulate d the electricity industry in Maryland. The General Assembly concluded that, by allowing electricity rates to be governed by market forces rather than through the “guarded monopoly” approach that had served the State so well for more than 80 years, competition would keep rates at a reasonable level and promote efficiency and better service.  See Delmarva Power v. P.S.C., 370 Md. 1, 803 A.2 d 460 (20 02). Reco gnizing tha t it would take some time for the anticipated competition to take hold, however, and unwilling to allow rates to float unre gulated in th e interim, the L egislature req uired that rates be “capped” at their then-current level until July 1, 2006, after which that part of the rates based on the cost of generating and transmitting electricity would become unregulated by the PSC. When the “caps” were abo ut to expire, however, it was clear th at the anticipated competition, upon which the Legislature relied, had not occurred, and some of the utilities that had spun off their generating facilities and would be forced to purchase electricity in the open market, announced that, effective July 1, 2006, electricity rates would increase significantly, in the case of BGE by 72%

 Anyway it goes on and on for 126 pages and lashes out at the Senate for even considering such bad legislation.

The entire opinion can be read here.

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2 Responses to “General Assembly Whacked Again”

  1. tjh said

    We’ll see what happens, of course, but ultimately I think this opinion is worse news for Ehrlich. It means the Schisler albatross is firmly around his neck. The opinion’s unanswered questions — specifically, whether this current PSC has jursidiction over the merger and any restructuring questions — fall on Ehrlich rather immediately. O’Malley is certain to ask whether anyone really believes this PSC is up to the task.

  2. hocomd said

    tjh,

    I don’t read it that way. Like you said it remains to be seen. The current PSC can’t review it (the merger), but the Senate Bill 1 says only the new PSC can review it (the merger). Since we are not getting a new PSC what does that mean? It doesn’t say who gets to review the merger.

    In their haste the Senate (Mike Miller) didn’t consider this potential. Hmmm. Interesting dilemna.

    It is up in the air.

    If Schisler is an albatross or not – I don’t know.

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