JACKSON -- While the dispute about providing additional employees for the Public Service Commission has been settled for this fiscal year, it is interesting to note that other agencies got authority to hire more staff without any such controversy.
Various state agencies were given the authority to hire an additional 300 employees for the current fiscal year. Yet, many Republican legislators got worked up over giving the three elected Public Service commissioners the authority to hire three additional employees -- experts in the area of providing them assistance on the complex issues surrounding the regulation of utilities.
The ironic thing in the whole debate is that the same legislators who balked at allowing the Public Service Commission to hire those experts agreed to allow the Public Utilities Staff to hire those experts.
It is interesting to note that those Republican legislators were willing to allow the Public Utilities Staff, which is an agency that reports to Gov. Haley Barbour, to hire additional staff. But those legislations were not willing to allow the elected commissioners, who actually have to vote on whether to allow utilities to raise rates, to do the same. The commissioners consist of two Democrats and one Republican. All three said they needed the additional staff.
The issue had to be settled in a $60,000 special session that seemed real unnecessary.