TALLAHASSEE — Seven finalists vying to replace two incumbent Florida public service commissioners spurned by a nominating panel have connections to utilities or their regulation.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who has been at odds with lawmakers over appointments to the Public Service Commission, is expected to get the slate this week from the PSC Nominating Council, an arm of the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Once he receives it, the governor will have 30 days to make the appointments to the five-member panel, Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said Monday. The Nominating Council would make the appointments if Crist doesn’t do so within that span.
The panel last week selected the finalists after earlier refusing to interview Commissioners Nancy Argenziano, the commission’s chairwoman, and Nathan Skop, both of whom had sought reappointment.
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Skop and Argenziano blamed that snub on their votes earlier this year against major rate increases sought by the state’s two largest electric utilities, Florida Power & Light Co. and Progress Energy Florida. Crist also had opposed the rate increases.
The Florida Senate then refused to confirm two other commissioners, Bradenton resident David Klement and Benjamin Stevens, who also had voted against raising rates. Crist has since replaced them with Ronald Brise, a former Democratic state representative from North Miami, and Arthur Graham, a former Jacksonville city councilman.
The finalists to succeed Argenziano and Skop, whose terms expire at the end of the year, include the Nominating Council’s former chairman, state Sen. Lee Constantine. The Altamonte Springs Republican has been an alternative energy advocate and serves on a Senate committee that deals with energy issues.
Two nominees have direct links to utility regulation: the commission’s former executive director, Mary Bane, and former Missouri Public Service Commissioner Connie Murray, now living in Sun City.
The others are former Progress Energy Florida executive James Baumstark, also a retired Navy submarine captain from Crystal River; Tampa lawyer Julie Brown, who dealt with utility contracts when she worked as an assistant city attorney; Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities staffer Kevin Wiehle and West Palm Beach utilities director and assistant city administrator Eduardo E. Balbis.
The council also had nominated Constantine, Bane, Murray and Wiehle for the Klement and Stevens seats.