Gov. Paul LePage has nominated Barry Hobbins, a veteran Democratic party lawmaker who served numerous terms in both the Maine House and Senate, to be the state's next public advocate representing the interests of Maine ratepayers in proceedings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
LePage cited Hobbins' 39 years experience as a private practice lawyer in telecommunications law, real estate, municipal and administrative law, land use planning, business and corporate law, criminal and family law.
Hobbins served numerous terms in the Maine Legislature, being first elected in 1972 as the youngest member of the 106th Maine Legislature. He also served in the 114th Legislature and then the 122nd through 125th Legislatures. He served on many legislative committees, including business legislation, labor and judiciary and the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, serving as both its House chairman and Senate chairman.
"While serving on the EUT committee, he developed a thorough knowledge of energy issues and was in charge of overseeing the Office of the Public Advocate as it related to wholesale electricity markets, interstate electricity transmission and interstate gas transportation," LePage's office said in a news release. "He also became familiar with the workings of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate communications of radio, television, satellite and cable systems.
Maine Public reported that Timothy Schneider, whose four-year term as public advocate expired in March and was LePage's pick for the post four years ago, apparently fell out of favor with the governor when he supported a stakeholders' solar power bill last spring that ultimately died after LePage's veto was sustained by lawmakers.
Schneider told Maine Public he knew at the time that his support for the solar bill might hurt his standing with the governor but he felt the proposal was in the best interest of ratepayers.
"The office is independent, which means we can take positions that the governor doesn't agree with," he told Maine Public. "I took that independence seriously, so I knew if we took a position that the governor did not support, this was a risk."