JEFFERSON CITY - After the public outcry concerning rural phone rates, members of the Public Service Commission would find themselves running for election rather than being appointed and working for lower pay under a measure before the legislature.
A bill proposed by Sen. Doyle Childers, R-Reeds Spring, would change the number of PSC members from five to nine and those nine, one from each of Missouri's congressional districts, would be elected instead of receiving a gubernatorial appointment.
"They would be elected the same as a state senator and have the same salary," Childers told members of the Senate Financial and Governmental Organization Committee on Monday.
Under Childers' bill, PSC members would serve a four-year term instead of the current six. The salary for the full-time position would be cut from about $82,000 a year to the $27,000 that the part-time senators make.
"I think you've got an idea that deserves attention but I think the pay you've got is too low," said Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, the chairman of the committee.
But Childers said with nine members instead of five, the work load would be less.
"I think that many senators work just as hard as they do," he said.
Commission Chairman Shelia Lumpe, a former state representative, said the salary issue depends on whether you see the commission as the equivalent of the legislature.
"I know a lot of times legislators feel that their job is a full-time job," Lumpe said. "This is a five-day a week often week-end full-time job."
Childers said he became aware of the responsibilities of the PSC after the recent Community Optional Service controversy. The commission planned to cut the toll-free calls that some rural residents enjoy, such as those from Sturgeon to Columbia.
Both the Missouri Senate and House passed resolutions urging the PSC to change its mind.
Childers pointed out that with term limits starting to kick-in, legislators wouldn't have long-term experience with many of the issues, which is why he wants PSC members elected.
"If you're running for election you'll be out there in the community," he said. "The main thing is to try to provide the best service we can to the people that pay the bills."