Back and forth on the PSC bill
Tempers flared today on the floor of the Maryland Senate over legislation that would effectively fire Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's appointees to the Public Service Commission in the wake of proposed electric rate hikes of up to 72 percent.
"It's probably the most mean-spirited bill I've seen since I've been in the legislature," said Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus (R-Somerset). "It's opportunistic piling on. ... This is a firing bill in its ugliest form."
Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, chairman of the Finance Committee, countered that lawmakers needed to take steps to restore public confidence in a regulatory panel that appeared to have a "warm and cozy" relationship with the companies it regulates.
The bill would end the tenure of Ehrlich's five appointees and give the legislature control over four of their replacements.
Republicans made several unsuccessful attempts to amend the bill. One measure would have prohibited lawmakers who voted for a 1999 deregulation bill from making appointments to the commission. That would rule out the current presiding officers of both the chambers.
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