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The commission is both a quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative state agency. Each commissioner is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Each commissioner serves a six-year term, and may be reappointed. For continuity, terms are staggered so that one term turns over every two years. No more than two commissioners may be of the same political party, and each has an equal vote on commission decisions. One member is designated chair by the governor.
The job of commissioner is a demanding one. The commission regulates companies responsible for roughly 10 percent of the state’s economy, in terms of total business revenue. Approximately 8,000 utilities and carriers, many with annual revenues totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars, must operate under the commission’s umbrella.
The commissioners come from all walks of life. Some are attorneys. Others have been economists, engineers and business owners. What is important is that they must have an ability to sort through many complex legal and technological issues. Washington’s regulated industries are undergoing a period of rapid change, and the commissioners must constantly update their knowledge of new technologies, and industry and economic trends.
The commissioners are charged with a delicate balancing act. While they are consumer watchdogs over the state’s vital public utilities and carriers, they must give the companies they regulate a chance to earn a fair return. What’s more, they must make sure their decisions mesh with a multitude of federal and state laws over which they have no control.
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