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Industry News

California's Davis has New Ideas for SoCal Ed

LCG, Sept. 26, 2001--California Gov. Gray Davis will call a special session of the state legislature next week in an effort to come up with a bill that would keep the state's second-largest utility, Southern California Edison Co., out of bankruptcy, and the governor has some new ideas that might work, his spokesman said yesterday.

Davis' spokesman Steve Maviglio said the governor has been in talks with key lawmakers, looking at new ways the utility might be "rescued" from bankruptcy. "It will be a new proposal," Maviglio said.

As to the special session, Maviglio said "He is calling it for Oct. 2," and added "We have no idea how long it is going to last."

The original idea, worked out between the governor and the utility last April, was for California to buy SoCal Ed's transmission system for $2.76 billion, which would have given the company enough money to pay most of the debt it ran up subsidizing low retail rates for its customers while paying high wholesale rates for the electricity it sold.

By the time the state Senate passed enabling legislation in April the plan had been a ended beyond recognition, and was not acceptable to SoCal Ed and would not have stood the test of public opinion. The measure then went to the state's lower house, the Assembly, where it was massaged to the point the state Senate no longer recognized it.

The bill was still awaiting action in a state Senate committee when the legislature adjourned for the year on September 15. "We did not want to embarrass the governor by taking the bill up and getting it seven votes," said San Francisco Democrat John Burton, who is president pro tem of the state Senate.

Later, after hearing that Davis would call a special session, Burton said "We should have killed this baby once and for all."

Some key lawmakers, including state Sen. Debra Bowen, a Southern California Democrat, doubt whether the special session will accomplish anything, given the amount of opposition to the SoCal Ed bailout.

Others in the state Senate say the special session may never happen. Though the governor has authority to call a special session, the lawmakers have the right not to show up. "The Senate could choose simply not to convene it," one said.

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