State Senate confirms Chong for PUC position

by Janis Mara, ANG Newspapers

Inside Bay Area
The state Senate on Thursday confirmed the appointment of Rachelle
Chong to the Public Utilities Commission after a battle highlighting
consumer advocates’ concerns that the commission is more interested in
advocating for the telecommunications industry than consumers.

The 33-0 confirmation vote came over protests from consumer groups and
after the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday refused to endorse Chong,
47, a Republican telecommunications attorney appointed to the board
last January by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"In the spirit of ‘post-partisanship’ I’m going to vote for Ms. Chong,
but I have some serious concerns," said Senate President Pro Tem Don
Perata, D-Oakland, referring to the governor’s call in his inaugural
speech last Friday for a more centrist Legislature.
Chong’s confirmation vote took only minutes and there was no debate, although some senators abstained with no comment.

Perata, who also chairs the Rules Committee, said Chong made
conflicting statements about language she inserted in a telephone
industry rate regulation decision. Chong eventually said she had
Chong’s role in that regulation decision was a pivotal issue for
consumer advocates. She inserted language into a regulation decision
that AT&T later interpreted as a green light to resume marketing
services to customers who called with billing questions.

"I expect Ms. Chong to act at the next commission meeting to reverse
the changes to the AT&T marketing penalties," Perata said, by way
of explanation for his vote.
Chong’s confirmation catalyzed consumer groups’ complaints that the
Republican administration has gone too far in reducing oversight of
phone and cable companies, causing phone bills to go up, among other
negative effects.

The Consumer Federation of California,which had vigorously
opposed Chong’s confirmation
, extended an olive branch after the
confirmation. "The CFC hopes to set aside differences with … Chong,"
the organization said.
Calling her "an accomplished professional," the group said it hoped the
commissioner "will become more attuned to the need for protections" for
Chong thanked Perata and Schwarzenegger and pledged "my continuing
efforts to bring the most advanced communications services at the most
reasonable prices."