Voter's Guide, 2020 Fall Elections, Louisiana
Position Public Service Commission, District 1
NameJohn Mason

Campaign Information

Campaign Web Site

Bio Information

Party AffiliationRepublican
Present Employer / positionLaw Office of John Mason
Length of residence in Jurisdiction40 years
List of educational institutions and degreesLSU, BS, Computer Science
ULL (University of Louisiana Lafayette), MS, Computer Science
ULL, PhD, Computer Science
Loyola College of Law, JD, Law
Prior elected and appointed positions
Civic involvement and affiliationsGavroche USA (a non-profit that supports orphanages)

Questions specific to the position

1. What goals do you want to accomplish as a Public Service Commissioner? My primary goal is to bring broadband (i.e. internet service) under the control of the PSC. I am a supporter of Senator Beth Mizell's Rural Broadband bill, an effort to ensure that all of Louisiana's children have access to the internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said that broadband internet is a utility. The Louisiana Constitution requires that all utilities be under the remit of the PSC. Right now internet complaints fall on deaf ears, as the PSC has no ability to handle consumer complaints. Commissioner Skrmetta has had twelve years to get this done, and has tried and failed three times. I have testified in support of several bills in front of the legislature and they have all passed. I can convince the legislature to put broadband under the PSC for the good of our children and grandchildren.

I also want to revisit the issue of deregulation. It's been just over 20 years since the PSC considered a free market model. Many Louisiana businesses believe they can buy energy cheaper on the free market, but are not allowed to under the current monopoly model that forces them to buy from a single provider. Likewise many businesses would like to produce their own energy, but cannot do so. It's time to consider the benefits of deregulation versus the current model to ensure that both businesses and residential consumers can have the best service at the lowest price. This is critical for Louisiana's economic future.

Finally, many of our energy plants have been in service for five decades. These fifty-year old plants need modernization, and the current law allows these costs to be passed on to the consumer. A business group has estimated that this could increase consumer energy rates by 50%! If deregulation permits entities to purchase energy off the free market (or create their own energy), then all of the plants may not require modernization, thus reducing the costs passed on to citizens.
2. Now that working from home and virtual classrooms have become normalized, in what ways would you expedite efficient, high speed access to the internet for all Louisiana residents, regardless of geographic location or neighborhood demographics? I supported Senator Mizell's rural broadband bill and talked about it extensively on my radio show, The Big John Mason Show long before I became a candidate for PSC. I think the bill that just passed that allows internet service providers to use the poles already put in place by rural electric co-ops is brilliant and long overdue. Likewise, giving a tax break for the purchase of fiber optic cable is also a great first step. While the legislature has to implement rural broadband via statute, as mentioned above, I intend to work with the legislature to bring broadband under the control of the PSC to ensure that outages are not overlong and rates remain fair. All of Louisiana's citizens deserve access to high-speed internet.
3. What priority will you give renewable energy resources, such as energy efficiency programs and solar and wind installations, in the mix of energy supply for customers? Do you plan to promote any? Discuss with regard to residential and large commercial installations. I believe in giving both our businesses AND our residents the best value for their hard-earned money. If renewable energy sources reach the point where they are cost competitive with non-renewable resources then I will certainly support them. On the other hand, I cannot justify forcing our businesses and citizens to pay higher prices merely because some of their power is generated by the wind or sun. I hope research and development continue to lower the costs associated with renewable energy, because I will always be focused on what is best for both our businesses and our residential consumers. I would be in favor of revisiting the net-metering issue should the government reinstate tax-credits for solar panels (or windmills), as I believe the current situation is an unsatisfactory compromise that could have been handled better.
4. Should the Public Service Commission have a major role to play in requiring companies to ensure storm-hardened transmission lines? Yes, especially if the monopoly model continues. When a consumer is restricted to buying from a single producer, then the government should employ all common sense regulations. If deregulation occurs then consumers will be able to choose between a company that charges less for unprotected lines or paying increased costs from a company that uses storm-hardened transmission lines. It's also possible that a company may choose to use storm-hardened transmission lines in high-risk areas and unprotected lines in lower risk areas. In summary, the PSC should have a major role in requiring storm-hardened lines if the monopoly model continues. I would still be in favor of storm-hardened lines if deregulation were to occur, but I believe the PSC should be more flexible if consumers have multiple options.