Traveling on “93” I saw a political sign proclaiming Fred Thomas would “get Montana back on the right path.” I have since found it difficult to sleep. Two reasons.
The 1997 legislative session passed Sen. Fred Thomas’s SB 390, the “deregulation bill.” Fred Thomas was handpicked by Montana Power to carry SB 390 for his historic willingness to serve them and his lack of understanding of the issues. A legislative staffer was on the Senate floor to answer vocabulary questions that Fred Thomas could not.
“Deregulation” became a dirty word and political opportunists effectively hung it on Republican necks. At the 2000 Republican “Kick Off” I showed an amazed Fred Thomas that his bill deregulated nothing. Rather, SB 390 established criterion for the PSC to determine if, or when, to deregulate. I asked him to let people know the legislature had not deregulated our energy but rather the PSC requested EWG status (the real term for deregulation) for Montana Power and PPL, from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, May 25, 1999 on a 5-0 vote; in violation of SB 390. Fred Thomas told me it was easier to just let people believe as they saw fit. Republican candidates would just have to handle it.
That same year the Contractors Registration Act was passed. Fred Thomas pushed it, lobbied it, anything the lobbyists asked him to do. A District Judge and the Montana Supreme Court injuncted it because it contained 44 constitutional violations. Forty-four constitutional violations.
Now Fred Thomas wants to take the oath of office, again, and put us on the right path? Lord have mercy.
Brad Molnar, Senior Member
Public Service Commission