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Jimmy Patronis, Julie Brown slide through committee stop toward PSC confirmation

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis wants senators to know he can serve on the Florida Public Service Commission and still help run his restaurant in Panama City Beach.

And PSC Commissioner Julie Brown wants you to know that she didn’t vote last fall for gutting utility energy conservation goals.

Both commissioners are going through Senate confirmation for their commission seats, which pay $130,036 per year.

During confirmation before the Senate energy committee, a representative of the Southern Alliance for Clean energy criticized the PSC for gutting utility conservation goals and allowing utilities to charge customers for proposed nuclear plants.

“We do have some very grave (concerns) about what has come out of the Public Service Commission the last few years,” said Susan Glickman, the group’s Florida director. She spoke only during Brown’s confirmation hearing.

But Brown told FloridaPolitics.com after the meeting she didn’t vote with the majority to reduce the energy conservation goals. She said Wednesday through a PSC spokeswoman that she couldn’t discuss the issue further because the case docket still is open.

On Tuesday, she told the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities that President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” that requires carbon emission reductions from power plants bears watching because of potential costs.

“We will need to be cognizant of the implications of this law,” she said, “as other things trickle down the pipeline so that we … can keep rates affordable for consumers around the state while also maintaining (electricity) reliability.”

Patronis, who was appointed last fall and took a seat in January, is co-owner of Captain Anderson’s Restaurant & Waterfront Market.

He was asked by state Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, how he could juggle both his full-time PSC job with his responsibilities at the restaurant. That was the only question either of the commissioners were asked by senators.

Patronis said he made it clear when he applied for the PSC appointment that the commission job would be primary and anything else would be secondary, including his co-ownership role at the restaurant.

“If I can pull a shift and allow them to go enjoy their spring break, I’ll do it,” he said. “They were accommodating to me through the eight years of this process being gone every spring.”

He said he has maintained a home in Tallahassee since he arrived at the Legislature and he called the structure a “welcome sight.”

Both commissioners received unanimous approval from the committee. In fact, after initially ribbing Patronis, some of the senators joking competed for the opportunity to make the motion and second for approval.

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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