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Rick Scott signs bill making modest reforms to Public Service Commission and public utilities

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Wednesday HB 7109, a bill that makes modest reforms at the state Public Service Commission. The law limits future Public Service Commission members to three consecutive four-year terms and require commissioners to undergo annual ethics training. The bill was weakened when the House refused to accept a Senate amendment that would require the PSC to hold customer service meetings every other year in the service area of the utilities they regulate.

It also requires that specified commission meetings be streamed live on the Internet and a recorded copy of the meeting be made available on the commission’s website. The requirement applies to:

  • each internal affairs meeting, workshop, hearing, or other proceeding attended by two or more commissioners; and
  • each meeting, workshop, hearing, or other proceeding where a decision that concerns the rights or obligations of any person is made.

The bill also affects public utilities.

It allow Duke Energy Florida to issue bonds for the $1.4 billion Crystal River nuclear plant shutdown, a move that Pinellas County state Sen. Jack Latvala said would save an estimated $600 million for customers. The Crystal River facility was shuttered much earlier than expected because of damage to a containment building. The plant was permanently shut down in 2013, though it had not generated electricity since 2009.

The bill also will require utilities to notify customers of the best available rates, and prevent utilities from using extended billing cycles to increase rates as Duke Energy Florida did in 2013-2014, an action that outraged its customers in Pinellas County.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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