Capitol Alert

Public Utilities Commission reform bill collapses in session’s final hours


Legislation to overhaul California’s public utilities regulator stalled in the final hours of the legislative session as its backer said the Senate Republican leader blocked a vote.

After a string of scandals ratcheted up pressure on the California Public Utilities Commission, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, pushed a constitutional amendment that could have dismantled the regulator. With the measure advancing steadily through the Legislature, Gatto and Gov. Jerry Brown announced a deal to enact some wide-ranging changes.

A major piece of that deal, Assembly Bill 2903, sought to enact changes that included establishing an ombudsman and an internal auditor, transferring some authority to enforce rules governing transportation companies, and expanding public records disclosure rules.

But the bill did not get a needed waiver for a vote on Wednesday night before a midnight deadline for the end of the legislative session. Speaking to reporters just after midnight, Gatto expressed bewilderment, saying he had “no idea” what happened, but he blamed the intransigence of Senate Minority Leader Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield.

“It just seems like it was one of those things where someone got tired and grouchy and they decided to kill the biggest utility reform bill of the year,” Gatto said. “I don’t see how somebody could be so obstinate in the face of good policy.”

Fuller declined to comment.

On Monday, June 27, 2016, the day Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers announced a deal to overhaul the troubled California Public Utilities Commission, then-Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, explained why things need to change.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert