Senator Douglas Kary (R-Billings) is intent, for some yet-unexplained reason, to kill the Montana Public Service Commission. His bill, SB160, is poised to eliminate half the PSC commissioners (from 6 to 3) and remove them altogether as elected officials. Instead, the three PSC commissioners will serve as the behest of the state governor (whoever that governor happens to be).
Perhaps the unbridled chicanery at the PSC, led by now-gone Roger Koopman, was too much for Senator Kary. Whatever the reason, the bill seems like an extraordinarily bad idea from the Republican perspective. Taking the direct election of the PSC away from Montana voters and instead filling the positions with bureaucratic appointees of the governor could potentially place Montana’s regulatory agency into the hands of Democrats. Currently, the PSC is stacked strongly with conservatives, with both Randy Pinocci and Jennifer Fielder being fine examples of the character and ideological strength of the commission. But should a Democrat become governor (as they have been the previous 15 years), all of those conservatives would be replaced with liberals if Kary’s plan goes into place.
The Big Sky Public Policy Institute warned earlier today, “The Public Service Commission began as an attempt to ensure that railroads were treating all their customers equally and not discriminating against some while profiting others. Because monopolies must be regulated in a free market, the PSC should be given an active role more similar to their original function than dealing with utility rates, and that’s regulating Big Tech corporations who are granted the privileges of utilities under U.S. Law.”
They continue, “Bills are now being written and will be proposed this session that will place regulatory control of Big Tech’s censorship machines under the regulatory oversight of the PSC. Hopefully, the PSC will be able to curtail their power and ensure they aren’t practicing viewpoint discrimination against their Montana customers.”
Meanwhile, Republicans may be feeling confident with Governor Gianforte at the helm of state government. But Republicans also need to remember that Gianforte will not be governor forever. While we may (or may not) be able to trust his hypothetical picks to run the PSC, we certainly would not have been able to trust Governor Bullock’s and we certainly will not be able to trust the hypothetical Democrat governor who could potentially follow Gianforte.
Currently, the PSC is stacked with conservatives, and Republicans would be foolish to hand control of this regulatory agency out of the hands of voters and into the hands of the governor.
Click here to read more from the Big Sky Public Policy Institute.