Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley lashed out at fellow commissioners Lynn Posey and Leonard Bentz after the two refused to vote on a proposed Mississippi Ratepayers' Bill of Rights at a Tuesday regular public service commission meeting.
Presley unveiled his proposed Ratepayer's Bill of Rights to voters this January. The bill contained more than 20 rights designed to protect ratepayers, including the right to avoid disconnection on days colder than 32 degrees or hotter than 98 degrees; the option to speak with live company representatives instead of automated systems; and access to an independent review to resolve customer or power company complaints about bills. The bill, fashioned from similar ratepayer bills of rights in neighboring states like Georgia, also provided ratepayers the right to access Mississippi Public Service Commission meetings through the internet.
The commissioner has been lauding the Ratepayer's Bill of Rights to voters since the first of the year, but grew furious when he discovered that his fellow commissioners refused to give his bill an up or down vote. Bentz and Posey instead proposed a less grandiose proposition: asking power companies to create their own ratepayers' bill of rights.
"How can you justify putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse like this?" Presley asked. "This order protects people who have health issues whose power could be cut off. What about the people who need assistance today, Mr. Chairman? What in your order helps people who are going to be affected during freezing temperatures who are about to have their gas turned off?"
Presley moved to make a motion to open the bill of rights document for a vote, but Posey informed him that a majority of the commission preferred to ask power companies how to fashion a ratepayer's bill of rights.
"I'm not going to recognize you for your motion," Posey said. "We've got two speakers on (our) motion and that dictates a majority of this commission, and that's what we'll pursue. ...That's the way I intend to operate."
Presley appeared flabbergasted at the procedure: "So if a commissioner makes a motion to vote and somebody doesn't want to do it then we don't have to vote on it, because you don't want to take a vote on it? Is that really how this works?" he demanded. "We've spent all this time putting this proposal together and nobody wants to take a vote on it? If you're against it, just vote on it. What are you afraid of?"
"Commissioner," Posey said, "I don't want to argue with you, but the majority rules on this."
"If you want to vote against this ratepayer's bill of rights," Presley insisted, "if you want to vote against people who can have their power cut off in the winter time or the summer time, then let's do it, but this is not fair. I circulated this proposition four months ago and nobody's said a word against it until today, and now today we've take this little shift and say we're going to ask the companies to tell us what they think we ought to do to protect ratepayers? I don't understand it."
Posey later told the Jackson Free Press that the commission is not outwardly opposed to the idea of a ratepayer's bill of rights.
"No one on the commission is opposed to the ratepayers bill of rights," Posey said. "We all think protection needs to be in place. We just have a different opinion on how to get there."
Presley later argued that a state regulating authority "had no business asking a regulated industry how the regulator should regulate it."
In response, Posey said that regulators should welcome the opinions of the regulated industry: "They're the ones who will be regulated, so their input is important."
Thank you, Mr. Pressly, for standing up for consumers in Mississippi. And why do we need three PSC commissioners in this state, just like why do we need three transportation commissioners?
- golden eagle
Why do we need three commissioners? How about asking why do we need all these public school districts, Universities, and all these elected officials in the State legislature?