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Time to restructure

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Stopping the sorry saga of the PRC

By Sherry Robinson

As Jerome Block Jr. joins the roster of bad boys and girls forced to leave the state’s Public Regulation Commission, let’s look back and see how we got here.
In 1996 voters passed a constitutional amendment to combine the State Corporation Commission, whose three members were elected on a statewide basis, and the Public Utility Commission, whose three members were appointed.
It would be replaced by the Public Regulation Commission, whose five members would be elected by district.
This super-agency would regulate utilities, phone companies, water and sewer systems, insurance, pipelines, and tow-truck operators.
Supporters said it was good government; because they were elected, commissioners would be directly accountable to the public. Opponents feared concentrating too much power in too few hands.
Few people, including most legislators, knew anything about this innocuous-sounding proposal sitting at the bottom of the ballot.
“It got through the committees of the House at 3 in the morning on the last day of the session. In my conversations with several senators, they didn’t even know they voted on that sucker,” said Corporations Commissioner and future PRC member Jerome Block Sr., who knew something about suckers.
House Speaker Raymond Sanchez tried to kill the bill.


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