On Jan. 6, 2010, I sent a letter to Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, expressing that the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) should be elected instead of appointed and asking him to file legislation to that effect.
I actually began discussing that proposal in late 2009 after AEP/Kentucky Power, which serves all of Pike County, disclosed its intent to impose a 35-percent rate increase on its customers.
AEP/Kentucky Power eventually negotiated a 17-percent residential rate increase. A 17 percent rate increase affects everyone, not just the unemployed or those who live in "poorly insulated, substandard housing," as mentioned in your Feb. 23 editorial, "What's the rush to elect PSC?"
Unfortunately, unreasonable rate increases do have a disproportionate effect on people with fixed incomes and the unemployed.
While the General Assembly cannot change the weather, it can take action to make PSC members more responsive to the concerns of average citizens.
Several states already elect public service commission members. Your editorial noted that attorney Tom FitzGerald opposes Senate Bill 151 and believes an elected PSC would not benefit the average ratepayer.
I would note that FitzGerald cited a 1984 study for his position. With all due respect to FitzGerald and his work on behalf of consumers, 1984 is ancient history.
A 2003 study conducted by economist Stephen Coate of Cornell University found that "political competition in electing regulators will lead to more pro-consumer outcomes."
That same study showed that consumers in states with appointed utility commissioners pay an average of 5.10 cents per kilowatt hour, whereas consumers in states with elected utility commissioners pay an average of 4.39 cents per kilowatt hour.
The trend is the same with regard to commercial and industrial rates per kilowatt hour.
Of the 13 states with elected public service commissions, Louisiana, North Dakota and Nebraska have lower utility rates than Kentucky while Nebraska and Oklahoma have rates similar to Kentucky's.
Many will continue to argue about the effect electing PSC members will have on utility rates, but SB 151 will give the people of Kentucky something they desperately need in regard to setting utility rates: a voice.
Jones' motive is the same as mine, easing the burden on the people of Pike County and Eastern Kentucky and giving regular folks a say in setting utility rates.
I asked Jones for help and he responded. The motives your editorial assign to him are simply preposterous and ill considered.
There are no "grudges" behind this bill, just two elected officials trying to do what's best for the people they represent and what those people want.
The House, the people's House, should vote for SB 151.