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Bill would limit terms on PSC panel

The nine who nominate members for the utility regulator might be limited to four years.

By WILLIAM YARDLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- For 10 years, Andy Blank has not received a dime for the time he spends sifting through nominees to the Florida Public Service Commission.

Rather than a paycheck, he earns power and influence working behind the scenes to shape the appointed body that regulates state utilities.

Critics say Blank, a Miami businessman and head of the nine-member group that nominates members to the PSC, has too much unrestricted sway and no fear of wielding it.

But Monday, the powerful head of the House Rules Committee guided past a House committee a bill that would limit to four years the time Blank and other members of the PSC Nominating Council can serve.

"If we're term-limited," said Rep. Joe Arnall, the Jacksonville Beach Republican sponsoring the bill, "then every board and commission should be term-limited." Elected state officials are limited to eight consecutive years in office.

Arnall, a former member of the Nominating Council, would not say whether his bill is designed to remove Blank. The bill also would give the Senate president and House speaker the power to remove council members.

Blank and Arnall once served together on the council. Arnall would not comment on their relationship. Blank was out of town Monday and could not be reached.

Critics say Blank's long tenure has put him under increasing influence by utility companies that want to steer the nominating process.

In addition, Archive America, a record storage company Blank owns, gave $142,500 to former House Speaker Bo Johnson and his wife, Judi, who were convicted of income tax fraud in 1999. Blank refused to testify about the payment.

"Obviously (Arnall's bill) would affect Andy Blank," said Curt Kiser, a lobbyist and former lawmaker who spent 17 years on the Nominating Council. Kiser said Blank has gained more influence on the council over the years because fewer of its members are legislators and more are private citizens without experience in utility regulation.

The Nominating Council submits at least three nominees to the governor, who then makes the final selection.

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