Thursday, July 28, 2005

Court returns energy measure to ballot

Voters will, after all, get a chance to vote on energy regulation...and whether or not it sticks will be decided after the election.

The California Supreme Court restored a consumer-sponsored energy initiative to the Nov. 8 state ballot Wednesday, saying the public should vote on the measure before a legal challenge by the energy industry is considered.

Acting with unusual speed, the court unanimously overturned a ruling issued last Friday by the state Court of Appeal in Sacramento that struck Proposition 80 from the ballot.

The order means the voters will consider, for the second time in seven years, a rollback of the state's 1996 electricity deregulation law. That law, which removed most of the Public Utilities Commission's control of electric supplies and rates, has been attacked by both sides of the energy debate -- for going too far or not far enough -- and is widely blamed for the blackouts and price spikes that Californians endured in 2000-01.

In a suit by energy producers, the appeals court ruled last week that Prop. 80 conflicted with a provision added to the state Constitution in 1911 that gave the Legislature "plenary power'' to increase the PUC's authority over utilities. Plenary power is defined as total and exclusive, leaving no room for lawmaking by initiative, the three-judge panel said.

Some see it as a good sign for the Redistricting Initiative as well.