Colorado State Archives
Executive Orders from the Administration of Governor Bill Owens 1999-2005
May 25, 2005
The Honorable Colorado House of Representatives
Sixty-Fifth General Assembly
First Regular Session
Denver, CO 80203
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am filing with the Secretary of State House Bill 05-1224 "Concerning Increased Opportunities For Collaboration Between The General Assembly And The Public Utilities Commission On Matters Of Regulatory Policy." I vetoed this bill as of 12:24 p.m. and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.
H.B. 1224 would require members of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Director of the Public Utilities Commission to meet with the General Assembly's Legislative Council at least twice per year to brief members of the committee. The meetings would take place at least once during the interim and once during the regular legislative session. There is no question that appropriately structured meetings can create a constructive and enlightening dialogue.
H.B. 1224 raises serious constitutional and separation of powers issues. Colorado's Constitution, Article XXV, vests the power to regulate utilities with the Colorado PUC. As such, it is inappropriate for members of the PUC to be placed in a situation where it is likely that questions about its quasi-judicial proceedings are likely to arise. Even where final agency action has occurred, a case could come back to the PUC in the form of a remand from the courts. The PUC Commissioners act as judges, and as such are constrained from talking about quasi-judicial cases. H.B. 1224 is the equivalent of the legislature calling in judges to discuss how they ruled or how they plan to rule in particular cases.
Sufficient checks and balances already exist with respect to the PUC's authority. The Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the Senate. The General Assembly has the right, through the legislative process, to pass legislation that prescribes how the PUC should handle certain issues. In addition, there is a right of appeal to the courts if there is a claim that the PUC has acted contrary to the existing law.
Furthermore, the Governor appoints PUC Commissioners who share a regulatory philosophy similar to that of the Administration. H.B. 1224 attempts to weaken the appointing powers granted to the Executive Branch. The various political views of the legislature may bring inappropriate political pressure on the Governor's duly appointed and confirmed Commissioners. The PUC Commissioners need to maintain the ability to exercise discretion on policy matters. Accordingly, I have vetoed this bill.
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