Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
July 26, 2016 – 6:54 PM

The California Assembly has shown a certain appetite for institutional reform this year – noteworthy because it happens so rarely in the Capitol.

One example is the Assembly’s refusal to approve a routine increase in State Bar dues without long-overdue structural changes in the quasi-public agency that licenses and supposedly regulates the legal profession.

It passed a fairly strong State Bar reform bill, only to see the legal establishment, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, persuade key senators to stall action.

An even more important example is the Assembly’s strongly bipartisan, 61-9 vote in June to overhaul the California Public Utilities Commission.

The PUC, like the State Bar, has become arrogantly insular, riven by scandal and too cozy with the huge utility monopolies it is supposed to regulate.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11, carried by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would have authorized the Legislature to reallocate the PUC’s duties, and, as Gallo said, “treat the PUC like any other executive branch agency.”

The Assembly’s overwhelming approval of ACA 11 sent a shock through the utility industry and moved Gov. Jerry Brown to embrace PUC reforms he had previously shunned.

Less than a month later, Brown and legislative leaders announced a compromise that will, he said, “change how this commission does its business,” including shifting some of its regulatory duties to other agencies and tightening up the commission’s operational ethics.

To read expanded column, click here.