Thursday, December 31, 2015

Andy Tobin appointed to Corporation Commission, Doug Little to chair the Commission

What Tobin will or will not do remains, for Scriber, an unknown. I don't have information on his stance on matters before the Commission, like the residential solar installers vs. utility companies battle over net metering. I'll have to do some digging.

What we do know is that Doug Little, along with now fellow Commissioner Tom Forese, benefited from oodles of cash alleged to be spent by Arizona Public Service (APS) on the 2014 election. My prediction is that APS will get what it (allegedly) paid for.

Also in the news: Commissioners Little and Forese are working on a compromise between Solar City and APS. Isn't this like a fox working out the differences between another fox and a hen?

Ducey appoints Tobin to Corporation Commission

Some had hoped that Ducey would appoint a neutral person, perhaps a retired judge, to the AZ Corporation Commission to fill out the vacancy created by Susan Bitter Smith's resignation. Instead the former AZ House Speaker Andy Tobin will join the Corporation Commission. Here are snippets from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).

Gov. Doug Ducey today appointed former House Speaker Andy Tobin as the Arizona Corporation Commission’s newest regulator.

The governor made the appointment a day after the regulators met to elect Commissioner Doug Little as interim chairman. [_Scriber_: More on that below.] Tobin will replace Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith when her resignation becomes effective on January 4th.

“There’s a reason I’ve trusted Andy with so many important roles in my own administration – he’s a person of outstanding integrity,” Ducey said in a news release. “Andy is his own man, known for sticking to his guns and doing what he knows is right, even when the stakes are high and even under intense outside pressure. Now, more than ever, that strength of character is needed on this commission.”

Tobin, who is currently the director of the Arizona Department of Insurance and the interim director of the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions, will be vacating those posts.

Bitter Smith is resigning as a commissioner following Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s decision to seek her ouster from office over conflict-of-interest allegations.

Craig McDermott posting at Blog for Arizona is just as skeptical as Scriber about the consequences of this appointment.

Mitch M. at Arizona’ Politics observes that Tobin will take a significant cut in pay when he takes the job on the ACC.

However, I will observe, that given the behavior of the ACC and its members, that we need not worry about Tobin.

Only his official pay will be cut.

Doug Little chosen as Chair of Corporation Commission

Also from the Capitol Times is this story on Commissioner Doug Little's selection to chair the Commission.

... the commissioners voted to have Little assume the helm on an acting basis, beginning this coming Tuesday. Then, after Ducey finally acts [on naming a replacement for Susan Bitter Smith], there will be another vote, this time with the new member participating.

But it really won’t matter who Ducey names — or what that person wants.

Little already has the endorsement of Tom Forese, with whom he ran as a ticket in the 2014 election. And Burns committed to vote for Little when the time comes.

That guarantees him three votes on the five-member panel. And Little acknowledged after the meeting he does want the post on more than an interim basis.

But he refused to say after the meeting what will be his priorities as chairman.
“I think maybe it would be more appropriate to have that conversation when we actually have the full commission populated,” [Little] said.

The position comes with some power beyond actually running the meeting. Whoever chairs the panel also sets the agenda.

Corporation Commissioners seek compromise between solar installers and big utilities

Here's a third article from the Arizona Capitol Times, this one on what two Commissioners, Little and Forese, are up to - supposedly seeking a discussion about, and compromise on, net metering between Solar City and APS.

Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little have both taken personal trips to California to meet with Lyndon Rive, the CEO of SolarCity Corp., the largest solar installer in Arizona and the country, according to The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/1OwHTh2 ).

“What I’m trying to do is heal some damage,” Forese said. “These two groups have landed so many punches with each other that I’m trying to get it to the point where they can communicate on a different level.”

When both regulators ran for office in 2014, rooftop-solar leasing firms expressed concern that the candidates were taking so-called “dark money” from Arizona Public Service Co. The solar leasing firms said the money was to encourage the regulators to reduce solar subsidies.

APS hasn’t denied funding the candidates.

As Molly Ivins once observed, "ya gotta dance with them that brung ya." We will see who is playing the tune and who is on the dance floor in the year to come.

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