Jimmy Field Goes Bananas

Here’s an interesting and unexpected, if not particularly welcome, development courtesy of the Baton Rouge Advocate

Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish, was chosen Wednesday as chairman for the five elected members of the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

The unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor in 2007 was elected on a 3-2 vote by the state’s regulators who oversee the costs charged by utility, trucking and phone companies. He will preside over the commission’s monthly meetings and serve as the regulators’ spokesman.

Traditionally, the commission had rotated the chairmanship between the five members. When Campbell’s turn came, his fellow commissioners skipped him. Campbell was elected in 2003 to represent north Louisiana from Alexandria to Arkansas.

He frequently clashes with utility company officials. In November, Campbell brought Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater and Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell to explain under oath how the Jindal administration lost an $80 million grant to expand broadband Internet into unserved rural areas.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Campbell said after the meeting.

There are three Republicans and two Democrats on the PSC. Campbell got the chairmanship when Republican Jimmy Field, who represents the Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Houma/Thibodaux areas and who is both the longest-serving member of the commission and the outgoing chairman, voted for Campbell. Republicans Clyde Holloway and Eric Skrmetta voted against Campbell getting the chair. Democrat Lambert Boissiere was Campbell’s third vote.

Does it matter who chairs the commission? Not a great deal, since while Field may have voted to allow Campbell the gavel denied to him for the last eight years – Skrmetta attempted to get Field to continue as chairman and he refused – the 71 year-old former LSU quarterback is highly unlikely to begin voting for the worst of Campbell’s Longite regulatory foibles.

From a policy standpoint Campbell is no further along to getting any of his agenda passed. What will happen, though, is that at next month’s PSC meeting we’ll begin to see the PSC conducting regulatory circus shows as the new chairman attempts to bring evil corporations to heel.

We here at the Hayride welcome this development, as it provides us with increased reason to use the aptly-nicknamed “Bananas Foster” as a punching bag. We’re sure he won’t disappoint.

Just yesterday, for example, Campbell and Skrmetta went at it so hotly over proposals dealing with taxicabs that Field had to step in and pour water on the discussion. With Campbell holding the gavel the PSC is likely going to devolve into something more akin to the Taiwanese Parliament than what we’re used to.

Campbell’s time in the spotlight might not be too good for him, as it turns out. His current term is up in December 2014, and he’ll be on the ballot in October of that year along with Louisiana’s other most prominent multi-parish Democrat official, Mary Landrieu. It will be interesting to see in which personage his Republican opposition manifests itself; certainly Campbell will be one of the Louisiana Republican Party’s top targets over the next three years.

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