We're supposed to believe that Florida's system for selecting the people who set our utility rates is fair and free of political meddling.
That's a bigger fake-out than Manti Te'o's girlfriend.
The Legislature controls the selection of Public Service Commission members, who decide how much Florida Power & Light, Progress Energy (now owned by Duke Energy) and other utilities can charge for electricity.
But the power companies too often control the Legislature with giant campaign checks.
See how that doesn't quite make for an impartial system?
It's no wonder that again this year we have a reform-minded lawmaker proposing a change.
Rep. Dwight Dudley, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, wants members of the PSC to be elected by the people instead of nominated by a committee stacked with lawmakers, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
It's not the first time this idea has been floated. Variations have been debated through the years without gaining much traction. And this one likely won't either.
Electing PSC members sounds like a good idea — until you consider that the utilities can buy off PSC candidates just as easily as they can buy off legislators.
Dudley's bill (HB 447) makes an attempt to bar commissioners from taking campaign money from the utilities they could oversee.
But there are more sneaky ways to funnel money to political candidates than there are ways to fool a Notre Dame linebacker.
To say that you could take money out of the elections process is like saying you can remove the sand from Daytona Beach.
Not to mention it's unclear whether it's even constitutional to prohibit certain companies from making campaign contributions in certain races.
But Dudley's proposal is well-intentioned and includes some good points, such as term limits and a ban on commissioners going to work for utilities until eight years after they leave the commission.
And he went after another trick that the PSC recently pulled. Dudley's proposal says the PSC must consult with the Office of Public Counsel, which represents electric and water customers, before it rules on rate increases.
Last month the PSC approved a settlement to raise FPL's rates over the Public Counsel's protests.
Business as usual at the PSC.
It was less than three years ago that an unusually skeptical PSC approved only 6 percent of FPL's requested $1.27 billion rate increase.
It didn't take long for the Senate to oust two of the commissioners who made that decision. Then the committee that nominates PSC members yanked two others off the board.
So here's an idea: Take the Legislature and campaign contributions out of the process.
Instead of an elected PSC or one approved by the Legislature, let's have a nonelected group — similar to the Judicial Nominating Commission — submit a list of names to the governor.
Then let the governor appoint commissioners much as he appoints the Board of Governors, which sets university tuition.
That way, the nominating commission can assess the best people for the job without worrying about the next election, because its members aren't elected. And if the PSC is unfair, there's one elected official to blame: the governor.
As an extra check, allow the people to vote to retain the commissioners at the end of their terms, much as we vote to retain Supreme Court justices.
This isn't a new idea either. It's been talked about in the past and supported by Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop, two of the public-service commissioners ousted because they didn't do FPL's bidding.
And it's one that offers a bit of the best of both worlds: direct accountability to the people without a money-fueled election.
There isn't a perfect solution, but it's better than what we have.
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