- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

1:14 p.m.

ANNAPOLIS — State lawmakers are voting in committee on a plan that would reduce energy rates for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (BGE) customers and that will be voted on by the entire General Assembly in a special session tomorrow.

The Democrat-controlled legislature has wrapped all of its nearly two-dozen proposals into a single emergency bill, making it difficult for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election, to veto the parts he doesn’t like.

Mr. Ehrlich disapproves of the legislature’s plan to fire the utility-regulating Public Service Commission, whose five members are appointed by the governor, and replace it with commissioners chosen by legislative leaders.

He also dislikes the General Assembly’s plan to take over the Office of the People’s Counsel, which represents consumer interests in court.

Under the legislature’s plans, the PSC’s members would be fired effective June 30. The governor then would select new commissioners from a list provided by the General Assembly’s Democratic leadership.

If the governor does not appoint new commissioners within two weeks, the state attorney general would appoint them.

In addition, the governor would be stripped of his power to appoint the Office of People’s Counsel. That power would be given to the attorney general.

Mr. Ehrlich yesterday officially called for a special session to address BGE’s 72 percent rate increase, which would affect the utility’s 1.1 million residential customers beginning July 1.

The rate increase has resulted, in part, from 1999 deregulation laws approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat. The laws capped electricity rates below market levels while worldwide energy prices climbed higher.

Lawmakers have blamed the PSC for approving BGE’s rate increase. They also plan to stiffen penalties against sex offenders during the special session.

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