Utility secrets will remain concealed despite the outcome of the November 2 vote on Proposition 59. If passed, Prop. 59 will put the California Public Records Act into the state constitution, making it much harder to weaken its provisions. According to Fred Harris, staff attorney at the California Public Utilities Commission, however, the constitutional amendment will do little to open up information that utilities file with the CPUC. The problem is that the Public Records Act doesn?t apply to most information that utilities file with the commission. In fact, those are some of the few documents in the state that are presumed to be secret unless proved otherwise. Prop. 59 leaves those exemptions in place. Neither Pacific Gas & Electric nor Southern California Edison has a position on Prop. 59. ?The CPUC already has an open-records policy which we fully support,? Christy Dennis, PG&E spokesperson, explained. Utilities defend their confidentiality practices. They maintain that if some information were publicly available, it would lead to higher prices for ratepayers because private energy companies could take advantage of the data. ?Disclosure is only harmful if the deal is a bad one,? commissioner Carl Wood said. He added that if ratepayers are getting good deals, then disclosure only helps guide policy beneficial to ratepayers. Instead of any influence from Prop. 59, Harris said, increased openness at the CPUC could instead come internally as a result of SB 1488, which passed at the end of the last legislative session in August. He is starting work on a proceeding at the CPUC to evaluate the way the agency handles secrecy. ?My goal,? he said, ?is to make the procedures for getting access to information made a lot clearer. I also want to increase the number of categories of records that are immediately available to people either on the Web or simply by requesting them, so we don?t have to review requests on such an individual basis.? One area he thinks might fit into that description involves the records of completed investigations. ?We have to jump through hoops to release them, even though with completed investigations, there?s often few reasons to keep them confidential,? he said. SB 1488 was introduced in a far more sweeping form by Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee chair Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach). Initially, the bill would have made the CPUC the same as the rest of state government. Today, most documents in California are considered public unless there?s a good reason to keep them secret. At the CPUC, the reverse is true: records are considered secret until members of the public prove that they deserve to have them. The bill was completely amended, requiring only that the CPUC initiate a proceeding to review its public records policies.