Senate confirms utility regulator after drawn-out debateby Dara Kam | May 3rd, 2013
After more than 30 minutes of at times brutal debate, the Florida Senate reconfirmed Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar despite concerns that the regulator sides with utilities more often than consumers.
The Senate voted 26-13 to give Edgar, the longest-serving commissioner on the panel another four years on the panel that oversees utilities and approves utility rates.
Edgar was first appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005 and reappointed by Govs. Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.
But Edgar’s votes in favor of utility rate hikes, a personal bankruptcy and her involvement in a PSC dust-up involving Blackberry messages prompted a drawn-out debate on the final day of the legislative session about whether she should be replaced.
“My personal belief on this nominee is that she does not do an adequate job of representing the ratepayers and the consumers of the state of Florida,” said Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg. “My personal belief, based on my observations…is that she is fairly consistently on the side of the regulated entities as opposed to the consumers, especially with regard to electric rates.”
Latvala said he had planned not to submit her name for a vote and instead force Scott to either reappoint her or select someone new.
“I’m grateful to Governor Scott and the Legislature and am excited about working with them for the next four years!” Edgar said in a statement shortly after the vote.
Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, questioned Edgar’s rate-making decisions and their impact on “working class people” and the state’s economy.
“Give her a gold watch and say thank you for your eight years of service…Hit the reset button,” Legg said.
But incoming Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, defended Edgar, pointing out that she had been vetted and appointed by three governors and passed the scrutiny of Latvala’s committee.
“She’s human and fallible and unfortunately she and her husband had to undergo a bankruptcy,” Joyner said. “Nobody’s perfect. Her record is exemplary.”
Edgar weathered a PSC scandal involving BlackBerry messages exposed during a proposed Florida Power & Light rate hike in 2009. Edgar was cleared of wrongdoing by the Florida Commission on Ethics after an investigation into whether she broke state law by communicating through her aide with a Florida Power & Light Co. executive during a hearing. The ethics panel found no probable cause that Edgar violated state ethics laws.
Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said that the eight-year term limit for lawmakers should apply to Edgar.
“It’s about your constituents who have to pay these rates. I would love to see us put someone a little more consumer friendly on this commission,” he said.