Friday, September 15, 2006

Governor Ehrlich Wins Court Decision on PSC

The Maryland Court of Appeals restored Public Service Commission (PSC) members to office ruling (9-14-06) that the change was unconstitutional and only the governor has the power to remove commission members. The court ruled that lawmakers improperly usurped the governor's powers when they disbanded the regulatory body. After the PSC approved a 72% electricity rate increase, the legislature voted to disband the commission and limit the governor's power to fill the newly created vacancies. When Governor Bob Ehrlich vetoed the bill, the legislature overrode the veto and Commission Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler sued to overturn the new law.

The court had no problem with the legislature temporarily changing the method of appointment to increase its influence in filling vacancies. Previously, the commission's five members were chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The bill passed in June allowed Ehrlich to choose new members only from a list of names drawn up by legislative leaders. That provision remains intact. The court basically ruled that the legislature could not fire the governor appointed PSC. The court was also critical of the lack of due process standards by the legislative firing.

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