Saturday, July 08, 2006

PSC Firings On Hold

The Washington Post reports that yesterday Maryland's highest court issued an injunction halting, at least for now, the Maryland General Assembly's sacking of all of the Maryland Public Service Commission members. As I explained in testimony presented at Governor Robert Ehrlich's veto hearing and here as well, this unprecedented action encourages the notion that the regulatory and legal environment is highly unstable and unpredictable. It also violates fundamental separation of powers principles that protect all citizens against aggrandizement of legislative power at the expense of the chief executive's appointment and removal authority.

The court's injunction hopefully signals that it is prepared to take seriously these arguments that go to the heart of both sound regulation and, more broadly, sound governance. Rest assured that, in anything but the most short-term sense, consumers will not be better off in a regulatory regime in which utilities, or any business for that matter, are put at risk of not being allowed to recover their investment and the cost of providing service just because the legislature disagrees with a regulatory action. And rest assured as well that all of Maryland's citizens will not be well served when accepted principles of separation of powers among the government's branches are ignored.