The Making of Energy and Telecommunications Policy

By Georgia A. Persons | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2 The Emergence of Lifeline Rates as an Idea in Electric Utility Ratemaking

SETTING THE STAGE: THE ROLE OF NONLEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES IN DEFINING THE POLICY DEBATE

Most formal policymaking activities are carried out by the various standing committees in each house, which have functional jurisdictions that overlap with the functions of broad segments of the executive and judicial branches. It is the standing committees which process legislation and thus exercise significant power and have received most attention from scholars and the media. Special or select committees, on the other hand, serve to investigate major issues which are not covered by the provinces of standing committees, but they do not process legislation. However, there are significant similarities between the two types of committees. For example, the Senate Special Committee on Aging (hereinafter referred to as the Special Committee) was authorized in its 1961 charter to (1) hold hearings; (2) sit and act at any time or place during the sessions, recesses, and adjournment periods of the Senate; (3) by subpoena or otherwise require the attendance of witnesses and production of correspondence, books, papers, and documents; (4) administer oaths; and (5) take testimony orally or by deposition. Thus, although less attention is given to the activities of special committees, they are not without power and are clearly in a position to provide an important forum for discussion of issues and, in turn, provide vital input into both the front-end stages of the policyrnaking process as well as the monitoring and feedback on policy implementation. It was within the context of its ongoing activities in monitoring the state of affairs of elderly Americans that the Special Committee first heard testimony about the severe impacts of the 1973 Arab oil embargo on the lives of the low-income elderly:

Closed gasoline stations, diminished heating fuel stocks, and soaring fuel policies began to make an impact on the lifestyles and pocketbooks of older Americans in the

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