© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Integrity Florida Warns Utilities Exert Too Much Power Over Public Service Commission

Left to right: Brad Ashwell, Ben Wilcox and Alan Stonecipher.
Nick Evans

Government watchdog group Integrity Florida says the fox is guarding the henhouse when it comes to Florida’s utilities and their regulators.  The group wants to insulate the Public Service Commission from the political fray in the state Legislature.

Florida’s five member Public service commission is appointed by the governor from a short list narrowed down by a nominating council.  But Integrity Florida’s Ben Wilcox says that wasn’t always the case.

“Governor Askew, in the interest of government reform, wanted to take the complex job of utility rate making out of the hands of politicians,” Wilcox says of the 1978 change.

“Well forty years later exactly the opposite has happened.”

Wilcox argues because of their political clout in Tallahassee, the utilities have effectively captured the commission.  Integrity Florida’s report offers a handful of policy recommendations including giving the public a larger voice in the nominating process and empowering the Office of Public Counsel.

Alan Stonecipher says the OPC has 15 employees in Florida.

“California has like 147,” he says.  “Smaller states like Maryland and I think Michigan, Wisconsin have about the same number of employees in their consumer advocacy offices as Florida does.  So Florida is on the low end when it comes to funding consumer advocacy.”

The group criticizes the recent replacement of Commissioner Ron Brisé with former state lawmaker Ritch Workman.  Workman has no prior experience with utilities.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.