tampabay.com

PSC picks must be okayed by Senate

By ALEX LEARY
Published January 23, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist succeeded in removing two members on the state board that regulates utilities, but his replacement picks are not guaranteed a spot.

A spokeswoman for the state Senate, which confirms nominees to the Public Service Commission, said Monday that the resignations of Isilio Arriaga and Ken Littlefield, a former Republican state representative from Pasco County, mean the nominating process must begin from scratch.

Crist recently named as replacements Phil Nowicki, a former head of the state lemon law program, and Jeremy Susac, a PSC staff member.

But questions arose whether state law allowed the governor to make that move. By resigning effective Jan. 31, Arriaga and Littlefield kick started the nomination process - a reality the Governor's Office now accepts.

Nowicki and Susac are not barred from reapplying. Two different committees review applicants and make recommendations to the governor.

The process could take months, though Kathy Mears, a spokeswoman for Senate President Ken Pruitt, said an effort would be made to move it along.

Crist removed Littlefield and Arriaga on Jan. 10, saying he has more "consumer friendly" people in mind. Littlefield voted in favor of a 2003 bill that loosened regulation of phone companies, leading to the largest rate increase in state history. Crist fought the bill as state attorney general.

Arriaga, who had already served a term on the PSC, voted in 2005 to give Florida Power & Light more money in addition to its record rate increase to cover fuel costs after the hurricanes.