New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee Appointed to Investigate the Public Service Commissions

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The New York State Public Service Corporations Law (Laws of 1907, Chapter 424) established the Public Service Commissions to provide for the efficient regulation of common carriers, railroads, street railways, gas and electric corporations, and the construction of subways in New York City. Subsequent amendments to the law added the regulations of certain telephone, telegraph, and steam heating corporations to the Commission's authority. The Commission's duties in regulating these industries included investigating complaints from customers, establishing rates, ordering improved service where necessary, and supervising the issuing of corporation securities.

By a joint resolution of April 22, 1915, the legislature established the Joint Legislative Committee Appointed to Investigate the Public Service Commissions. State Senator George F. Thompson served as Chairman. This Committee expanded a preliminary investigation done by a similar committee that submitted a final report to the legislature on April 20, 1915. This report called attention to widespread misconduct and inefficiency in the Public Service Commission and recommended a fuller investigation of the Commission.

The Committee began work in June 1915 and submitted its final report to the legislature on March 6, 1917. The investigation examined the function, organization and activities of the Commission and studied a number of major issues including: inefficiency or misconduct of commissioners; excessive length of time responding to consumer complaints; exorbitant utility rates; improper issuing of corporation securities; and duplication of functions already carried out by federal regulatory agencies. Much of the investigation focused on the construction and operation of the rapid transit system in and around New York City.

The Committee gathered documents, sponsored hearings, conducted financial audits, distributed questionnaires, held interviews and used other means to examine the activities of the Commission. In its report to the legislature, the Committee charged widespread misconduct against several commissioners and recommended wholesale changes in the existing Public Service Corporations Law. Among its recommendations, the Committee called for a single Commissioner to replace the existing dual administration, the creation of a Rapid Transit Commissioner to specifically handle New York City's troubled transportation system, tighter measures to regulate methods of financing transportation and utility projects, and new regulations to control wiretapping of telephone lines.

The committee's investigation helped push for changes in the organization and administration of the Public Service Commission over the next decade, culminating in 1926 with the establishment of the New York State Department of Public Service.

From the description of Joint Legislative Committee Appointed to Investigate the Public Service Commissions Sub-agency history record. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 80987345

The Public Service Commission Law was enacted by the Legislature in 1907 to provide adequate means for efficient regulation of railroad, gas and electric corporations and their operations within the state. The law provided for the creation of two separate Commissions of five members each, and divided the state into two separate Districts, giving one Commission exclusive jurisdiction over greater New York City and the other Commission jurisdiction over all the other counties of the State.

On January 21, 1915, the Senate appointed a Joint Legislative Committee to make an investigation of the Public Service Commissions of the First and Second Districts to ascertain whether any changes were necessary in the organization, powers, duties and administration of the commissions in the interest of public welfare and efficiency of such commissions. The Committee was responsible for examining evidence that implicated Commissioners of inefficiency, neglect of duty, and misconduct in office. A second Committee was created on April 24, 1915, to succeed the first, and continued until March 6, 1917, at which time it made its final report.

The scope of the investigation included: an investigation of the Public Service Commission of the First and Second Districts with reference to their organization, powers, duties, and their exercise of such powers and duties; an examination into the question of duplication of functions by the Federal Interstate Commerce Commission and the Public Service Commission; an examination to ascertain the advisability of any changes in the organization of the Commissions and of the powers and duties of the Commissioners; a proposal to revise the Public Service Commissions' law and such other laws or parts of laws as may be necessary to harmonize the existing provisions of the statute law applicable to the regulation of public utilities; a submission to the Legislature such legislative bills as, in the judgment of the Committee, may be deemed necessary and proper.

From the description of Investigation files, 1913-1917. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 83825829

The New York State Public Service Corporations Law (Laws of 1907, Chapter 424) established the Public Service Commissions to provide for the efficient regulation of common carriers, railroads, street railways, gas and electric corporations, and the construction of subways in New York City. Subsequent amendments to the law added the regulations of certain telephone, telegraph, and steam heating corporations to the Commission's authority. The Commission's duties in regulating these industries included investigating complaints from customers, establishing rates, ordering improved service where necessary, and supervising the issuing of corporation securities.

By a joint resolution of April 22, 1915, the legislature established the Joint Legislative Committee Appointed to Investigate the Public Service Commissions. State Senator George F. Thompson served as Chairman. This Committee expanded a preliminary investigation done by a similar committee that submitted a final report to the legislature on April 20, 1915. This report called attention to widespread misconduct and inefficiency in the Public Service Commission and recommended a fuller investigation of the Commission.

The Committee began work in June 1915 and submitted its final report to the legislature on March 6, 1917. The investigation examined the function, organization and activities of the Commission and studied a number of major issues including: inefficiency or misconduct of commissioners; excessive length of time responding to consumer complaints; exorbitant utility rates; improper issuing of corporation securities; and duplication of functions already carried out by federal regulatory agencies. Much of the investigation focused on the construction and operation of the rapid transit system in and around New York City.

The Committee gathered documents, sponsored hearings, conducted financial audits, distributed questionnaires, held interviews and used other means to examine the activities of the Commission. In its report to the legislature, the Committee charged widespread misconduct against several commissioners and recommended wholesale changes in the existing Public Service Corporations Law. Among its recommendations, the Committee called for a single Commissioner to replace the existing dual administration, the creation of a Rapid Transit Commissioner to specifically handle New York City's troubled transportation system, tighter measures to regulate methods of financing transportation and utility projects, and new regulations to control wiretapping of telephone lines.

The committee's investigation helped push for changes in the organization and administration of the Public Service Commission over the next decade, culminating in 1926 with the establishment of the New York State Department of Public Service.

From the New York State Archives, Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY. Agency record NYSV88-A284

Relation Name
associatedWith Thompson, George F. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (N.Y.)
New York (State)
Subject
Transportation
Legislative bodies--Committee
Public Utilities
Public utilities--Law and legislation
Public service commission
Governmental investigations
Occupation
Activity
Arbitrating
Transportation
Law
investigating
Public utilities

Corporate Body

Active 1913

Active 1917

Information

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