Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Senate digs into California Public Utilities Commission communications

Former California Public Utilities Commision President Michael Peevey at a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee on Dec. 16, 2009.
Former California Public Utilities Commision President Michael Peevey at a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee on Dec. 16, 2009. The Sacramento Bee file

Longtime California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey stepped down last fall amid scandal, following revelations of back-channel e-mail exchanges with a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. executive involving political contributions.

The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee will delve into that incident and the utilities commission’s rules governing ex parte communication during two hearings over the next week.

The scrutiny begins today, 1:30 p.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol, when new PUC President Michael Picker and Joseph P. Como, acting director of the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, appear before the Senate committee to deliver their annual reports. Picker will also address questions about the PUC’s communication and safety policies, with a more in-depth hearing on the same subject scheduled for Wednesday, March 11.

VIDEO: Dan Walters wonders what’s behind California’s wildly yo-yoing gas prices.

GET DROUGHT OF HERE: California hit a major milestone in December, finally reaching Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought goal of a 20 percent reduction in water use. Were residents able to keep the savings going in January? The State Water Resources Control Board will receive an update during its meeting, 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street.

DOG’S BEST FRIEND: Once laboratories have finished research involving dogs or cats, the animals are often euthanized, even if they are healthy, according to Assemblyman Matt Dababneh. The Encino Democrat has introduced legislation that would require university laboratories to first contact animal rescue groups who can arrange an adoption of the dogs or cats. Dababneh will be joined by actress Nikki Reed of Twilight and 20 rescued beagles to discuss the bill, 11:15 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol, before it heads to the Assembly Higher Education Committee for a hearing.

ARE CSU SURE?: Budget hearings continue in the Legislature this week, including a review of Brown’s much-disputed funding proposal for the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges by the Assembly Subcommittee on Education Finance, 1:30 p.m. in Room 444 of the Capitol. The California Faculty Association, which released a report today arguing that CSU has failed to properly fund faculty salaries, will be on hand to push for different higher education spending priorities. CSU recently approved a 3 percent compensation increase for its faculty.

CAM YOU SEE ME NOW?: The Assembly Public Safety Committee will discuss the “policies and pitfalls” of requiring body cameras for law enforcement – which has been proposed by some lawmakers in the wake of several high-profile police shootings last year – 9 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, who turns 54 today, and Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, who is 72. And belated well wishes to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who turned 50 yesterday.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.