Former Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin has been appointed to replace embattled former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith. Tobin will discuss his new role.
Ted Simons: Former Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin was recently appointed to the state Corporation Commission replacing Susan Bitter Smith who resigned during conflict of interest accusations. We now welcome Commissioner Andy Tobin to "Arizona Horizon." Good to see you.
Andy Tobin: Thank you, Ted. Happy new year.
Ted Simons: Congratulations and happy new year to you, as well. Why did you accept this position?
Andy Tobin: First of all, I was flattered that the Governor had asked me, and I was anxious to be a part of his vision. I was overwhelmed that I would be even considered. I know a lot about the Corporation Commission, I know a lot about those who serve on it, I live in rural Arizona and I felt it was a great opportunity for us to have someone on there from rural Arizona so I jumped on board.
Ted Simons: Your qualifications to be a state regulator, what are they?
Andy Tobin: I think what most people want to know, what have you been involved in as far as energy and water and those things. I've got a history that you can look back. I worked with the former speaker of the Navajo Nation on the Navajo generating station, worked on line siding issues. Solar power, obviously solar tax credits. Water is a big thing in rural Arizona, it's a big thing down here but oftentimes we get left out. So I felt like this would be a great opportunity to bring that expertise to the table.
Ted Simons: I think a lot of folks have mentioned the rural aspect of the appointment.
Andy Tobin: Right.
Ted Simons: How have rural areas been given short shrift?
Andy Tobin: In the middle of the summer you've got sprinklers on he and your watering sidewalks and streets and weeds. You try doing that in some of the communities I live in the summer when the water tables are down and you're going to get a ticket. Down here we take a lot of that for granted. Where I come from, you know, when you smell smoke there's a problem. If you don't have water to put it out that's a bigger problem. Right now with very good work on four fry, back in Washington finally, we're still slowed up in this bureaucracy to clear our forests. There's a lot of things I bring to the table that sadly are not the urban priority. I think I did that as Speaker of the House and in the state legislature and I'd like to see if I can help over at the Corp Comm.
Ted Simons: As you see it, what is the Arizona Corporation Commission?
Andy Tobin: I see it as protect our power grid. That's the most important things we have going. If we don't have future power, we don't need brownouts like in California. We don't need folks worrying about whether their power is going to go sky high if they want to move their businesses here. It's important they have resources available to them that are affordable. And the same with water, those are the two main issues I will be concentrating on and Corporation Commission. It's about fairness and making sure Arizona can continue to grow and grow efficiently and safely with the power grids that we're looking at working with.
Ted Simons: Are you concerned about the Corporation Commission's integrity?
Andy Tobin: I know everyone who's on that Corporation Commission and I know Susan Bitter Smith. My view is, is that this governor who has the utmost integrity, and I have yet to meet anyone who loves the state more than Governor Ducey and Angela. In my view when someone that loves the state this much and has that much integrity asks you to jump on an opportunity to help us, I'm going get there. I think these folks are good and decent people who work hard and try to do the right thing. I intend to do the same.
Ted Simons: Do you think there is an integrity problem with the commission?
Andy Tobin: They have been in the news, clearly it's been a problem, a very big distraction. I'm hoping to take that distraction away. I've shared over there today with staff, trying to get caught up on these issues. I told them I would be there at the February meeting and you might not see me at another meeting. My intent is to telecommunicate my meetings from different counties around the state as we proceed through the year so folks around the state can have an opportunity to see what that's all about, and see who's supposed to be going doing the work for all of us. There's a stretch, yeah. I've been in politics before, I've seen it, I recognize it. The idea is to move forward with the people's business first. A lot of that noise has a tendency to go away.
Ted Simons: Some of that noise suggests that the Corporation Commission and the commissioners themselves are just too cozy with those they regulate. Is that a valid concern?
Andy Tobin: I know we had the dark money conversations and all this. I recently lost a congressional race. You know, I could argue that, oh, my gosh, all that money that Nancy Pelosi threw in and look what they did, you didn't care, nobody else cared, in the morning I called Kirkpatrick and offered to help in Congressional District 1, however I can be helpful to her. And I know that's politics but that's the law, the way things are right now. From my perspective, I think that if we can -- if we concentrate on what we're supposed to be doing, the rest will take care of itself.
Ted Simons: It's the law but is it healthy? Do you think that regulators should work for firms that have an interest in front of the commission?
Andy Tobin: Well, I don't think they should be working for a firm, they should at least recuse themselves. When I was speaker obviously I was in the insurance business. Nobody heads out there that doesn't buy insurance. But you also have a right to make a living. So there are times you just have to be smarter and think if there's an opportunity, I think you need to recuse yourself.
Ted Simons: The attorney general soon after replacing Susan Bitter Smith, was he wrong to do that, do you think?
Andy Tobin: I'm going leave that up to the attorney general. I don't think it's appropriate for me. I want to be an independent voice for rural Arizona. I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on what happened to folks on there. The Governor appointed me here so we can move forward. I'd really like to do that. Our attorney general has a very important job to do and so does the Corporation Commission. I exactly we will continue to do that job.
Ted Simons: One aspect it's suggest wood clear some of the noise, the haze, would be just to open APS's books. Any one individual Commissioner can do it.
Andy Tobin: I'm not sure the way I read whether one can do that. I'll share with you, I'm still the director of the department of insurance. We had 13 to 1400 different filings for rate changes over there this year. That's how many. I don't have the authority to say no, but you work through all of those rate cases. There's not up with person who came and asked me, hey, talked to me about these race cases. So I look at this and say to myself, okay if we're doing our job and doing it right, and it's open for everyone to see, then we should just continue that process.
Ted Simons: Did you think voters -- should voters have a right to know who's influencing their votes?
Andy Tobin: My point in making that, the 1300 rate cases in front of me, all of their books now need to be opened, everything they do needs to be opened? At what point does it stop? Everyone has a right to petition and everyone has a right to vote and support the candidate of their choice. And so it's a different walk, I get that.
Ted Simons: I guess my point would be their books wouldn't necessarily need to be open if there were some sort of regulation that says, if you contribute to a campaign you gotta report it.
Andy Tobin: Well, I think you're talking about a law from the Supreme Court. We've already been down that road. I'm going to the Corporation Commission and I'm sure justice Bolick may get that case in his hands but it's not in mine right now. The way the law reads those people have a right to make those contributions the way the law dictates. Why concentrating on the Corporation Commission instead of 1400 cases of DUI over here, if you do it you do it across the board everywhere. I didn't do it when I lost my race to Nancy Pelosi's funding of my opponent, that's why I mentioned it to you. I got up and said that's the end of the day.
Ted Simons: We've talked so much on the program. A lot of folks see APS as funneling a lot of dark money to commissioners over there he and getting a voice that isn't necessarily how the commission was set up to allow. Is that a valid argument?
Andy Tobin: I haven't seen any proof, it's all conjecture, I get all of that. It's politics at best. We have folks arguing about the Corporation Commission. Leave other races and national politics out, it's not the only issue on the table for folks trying to influence the public, as well. I could argue we had 377 districts and I lost 40 of them by 20,000 points because of how the system works.
Ted Simons: But that's dark money in general, that's the argument that has been brought up.
Andy Tobin: But that was the law. The law says this is okay. I could have called you and said Ted, I got wronged out here, we need to have a TV broadcast.
Ted Simons: But that's the law. But the commission can fit so chooses tell APS we need to see what you're doing.
Andy Tobin: If that's the case, the way they want to, for I don't want to forecast. That's going to have to be something you do across the board for everybody. That's my argument. If you do it for one, that's how it should go across the board for everybody and not just at the Corporation Commission. Which is why you have the courts.
Ted Simons: Your term, the term that I believe you're taking over, ends at the end of this year.
Andy Tobin: Yes.
Ted Simons: Are you going to run again?
Andy Tobin: My wife and I told you, I have not got a clearance for that. We haven't really had a chance to really talk. I have some other options I've been looking at and I've entertained other things that are out here. I'm hoping to make some decisions on that soon.
Ted Simons: Commissioner, thanks for joining us.
Andy Tobin: Thank you, appreciate it.
Ted Simons: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," a one on one conversation with Governor Doug Ducey about his plans for the upcoming legislative session. Governor Doug Ducey at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Andy Tobin: Corporation Commissioner