At Georgetown University Law Center, I teach a fall class on public utility law and a spring class on regulatory litigation. (See the syllabi here.) Both are "practicum" classes, where we supplement the weekly seminars with student projects carried out for regulatory agencies. Each July and December I cast a net among commission colleagues, asking about substantive and procedural challenges for the students to solve. With thanks to my contributing colleagues, here are excerpts from the spring 2015 list, organized according to three distinct roles regulatory agencies play. If you have local examples of these issues to share with us, or will be interested in the solutions we come up with, or have other ideas for projects, don’t hesitate to let me know.
Agency as Policy Leader
Setting the agenda: How does an agency set agendas for the parties, rather than the other way around? Agencies can be leaders, presiders, followers or a combination. Some agencies focus on guiding parties toward public interest solutions; otherwise wait for parties' proposals, and then say "yes," "no," "yes, if" or "no, unless." Most do some combination, emphasizing one or the other approach at different times. Useful examples of leadership: The Hawaii Commission's actions to reduce fossil fuel dependency (since 2004 and continuing); and the New York Commission's efforts to explore new market structures in the distribution space (especially if the Commission continues to ask the question, "If we still need a monopoly provider of something, how do we find the best provider, rather than allow inertia to favor the incumbent?")
Managing inter-governmental relations: No agency operates in an economic, societal, legal or bureaucratic vacuum. Its decisions influence, and are influenced by, other government actors: Governor, legislature, executive departments (e.g., commerce, antitrust, zoning), courts. . . .