State senator Jerry Hill, a Democrat of San Mateo, has introduced a bill that would require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to conform to state open-meeting laws. The roots of this proposed bill are in San Diego.
In March of last year, the commission held a closed-door, invite-only meeting at the Seaside La Jolla Forum. San Diego attorney Maria Severson, on behalf of a client, filed a case in Superior Court, challenging the closed meeting.
The Superior Court said it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The Court of Appeals agreed. Now the case is pending before the Supreme Court of California. Severson argues that the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act should apply to the CPUC.
"The [California] Constitution guarantees that meetings of state bodies, including the [CPUC], be held open to the public," the suit argues. "The Public Utilities Code does not give the [CPUC] the authority to operate in violation of the Cailifornia Constitution and conduct its business outside public view."
The Superior Court suit named Michael Peevey, the former lobbyist for and president of Southern California Edison, who now heads the CPUC, as the defendant.
For almost a dozen years, Peevey has used an obscure legal loophole to evade any challenge to closed meetings of the CPUC, says Severson. Peevey has routinely held private meetings with top utility executives to set energy prices and profits — one reason California utility rates are the highest in the continental United States. Hill's bill would address this problem, too.