Gov. Matt Bevin has two key appointments to make to the state agency that oversees utilities because the state Senate declined to consider appointments made last year by then-Gov. Steve Beshear.
When the 2016 General Assembly ended Friday night, Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters that the chamber had confirmed 17 appointments but did not introduce about 20 others for confirmation to various state agencies. That means those appointments will not stand.
Two seats on the PSC’s three-member board are open after the Senate did not confirm the reappointment of James W. Gardner of Lexington, who has been PSC chairman since 2015, and the appointment of Roger Thomas of Smiths Grove, a former state representative and Beshear’s agricultural policy chief.
Beshear, a Democrat, appointed Thomas to the PSC in December. Beshear initially appointed Gardner to the agency in 2008. Gardner was elected to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council in 1982 and served until 1986. He was a member of the Fayette County Board of Education from 1993 to 1997, serving as its chairman from 1995 to 1997
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Stivers, R-Manchester, said that he had “great respect” for the Beshear appointments but that Bevin, who took office in December, “should not be handcuffed by prior appointments.”
Stivers noted that Thomas’ appointment was to serve out someone else’s term on the PSC, which will expire July 1. Gardner’s reappointment was through 2019.
The Senate GOP leader reminded reporters that the Republican-led Senate last year confirmed Beshear’s appointment of former state Democratic Party chairman Daniel Logsdon to the PSC.
The governor’s office on Monday had no comment about who might fill the two PSC vacancies.
Commonly mentioned for a post on the PSC is state Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence.
Gooch, who switched late last year from the Democratic to the Republican Party, said he might be interested in being on the PSC “sometime in the future.”
“But right now the House is too close in party registration to put me elsewhere,” he said.
Gooch was referring to the Republican Party’s desire this year to take control of the House for the first time since 1921. Membership in the House now stands at 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans.
Gooch said he heard the rumor last year that he would get a PSC appointment because he switched to the Republican Party, “but there was never any truth to that. There was no deal for my switch.”
Also mentioned as a possible appointee to the PSC is former state representative and Lexington attorney Stan Cave, who was chief of staff for former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Cave did not respond Monday to a phone call and email seeking comment.
The annual salary for a PSC commissioner is about $130,000.
The commission oversees rate increases and reductions, the construction and operation of utility facilities, natural gas and coal purchasing practices, and consumer complaints.