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The Louisiana Public Service Commission discusses partisanship at its Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 meeting. The PSC commissioners, from left to right are: Lambert C. Boissiere III, D-New Orleans, Foster Campbell, D-Bossier Parish, Eric Skrmetta, R-Metairie, Mike Francis, R-Crowley, and Craig Greene, R-Baton Rouge.

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

An effort to ensure Democrats have a chance, from time to time, to chair the state’s regulatory board, which is majority Republican, was shot down Wednesday on party-line vote.

PSC Commissioner Lambert C. Boissiere III, one of two Democrats on the five-member elected Louisiana Public Service Commission, asked his colleagues to rotate the chairmanship based on seniority in order to give everyone a chance, regardless of party affiliation.

“On a level of fairness, this body should give us a chance to have a voice,” said Boissiere, of New Orleans.

His Republican colleagues disagreed, arguing there was no partisanship among the regulators who oversee utilities, in-state trucking and telecommunications companies. They continued the procedure of electing the chairman.

Unlike legislative committee chairmen, who can set agendas and decide when issues are heard, the PSC chairman has far less power but does run the boards’ meetings and serves as the regulators’ primary spokesman.

Republicans have dominated the PSC for more than a decade, but Boissiere has been twice elected chairman. Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish, was the last Democratic PSC chairman and he served in 2012.

Eric Skrmetta, a Metairie Republican who was a leader in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for Louisiana, was elected chairman without objection Wednesday. Mike Francis, a former Republican Party chairman from Crowley, was elected co-chairman.

Commissioner Craig Greene, of Baton Rouge, is the PSC's third Republican.

“The Public Service Commission historically has never been divided Democrat versus Republican, except for this recent permutation,” Boissiere said. “I’d like to go back to the days when the commission looked at the issues as issues.”

A few minutes later, again on a 3-2 party line vote, the PSC rejected Campbell’s request for a resolution supporting neutrality on the Internet be sent to the Federal Communications Commission. Trump’s FCC in December voted to end the “net neutrality” policy of the Democratic Obama administration.

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