Most Californians get their power from private, for-profit utilities, like Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison. But some have publicly-owned utilities run by cities or separate districts. Prop 16 deals with communities that want to move from private to public – and existing public utilities that want to expand. PG&E is the initiative’s major backer. Here’s spokesman Andrew Souvall:
Souvall: “Under current law, our customers are not always guaranteed a vote when their local government wants to spend public money to enter the electricity business. We think that they should have a voice in this very important decision.”
A big voice, in fact. Prop 16 would require a two-thirds vote for existing public utilities to expand and for local governments to start up a new electricity service. Current law requires a majority vote in some cases but not all. Souvall says the high bar is justified.
Souvall: “This is a very complex business. And there are a lot of risks associated with being an energy provider.”
Yes on 16 ad: “At a time when police and fire fighters are getting laid off …"
PG&E has spent at least $44 million on Prop 16, blanketing airwaves and mailboxes with ads. Opponents have raised less than $100,000. Still, Prop 16 has a lot of critics.
Slaton: “Can a company buy a law in California? Because that’s what this is really about.”
Bill Slaton is an elected board member for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. He says Prop 16 would make it virtually impossible for cities and counties to move to public power and for public utilities to expand.
Slaton: “This is one change that will lock in one company’s business forever. And anybody who understands business understands that competition drives prices down, and monopoly control drives prices up.”
Prop 16 is also opposed by consumer groups, environmentalists and most newspaper editorial boards. The California Chamber of Commerce and California Taxpayers Association support it.