TALLY SHEET: Utility, other bills prefiled in S.C. House

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Staff reports  |  House Speaker Jay Lucas today assigned six utility-related bills to the House Judiciary Committee after the bills were introduced during a pre-filing period.

The bills, part of the “Utility Ratepayer Protection Package,” follow the summer debacle of the V.C. Summer nuclear facility collapse, an incomplete project abandoned by two utility companies after $9 billion of spending.

One of the six bills includes this language, which refers to an act passed to help utilities pay for construction as it was being built:

“The Base Load Review Act was abused, material information was withheld from regulators, and regulators were intentionally misled, all of which contributed to the Public Service Commission approving rate increases that otherwise would not have been approved and which were inconsistent with the intent of the General Assembly and the law of South Carolina.”

In a statement, Lucas said the bills would lower current rates and keep consumers for paying more for the failed project.

“Additionally, the bills gut existing law and put proposals in place that advocate for the ratepayer rather than utilities and its investors,” he said.  |“In recent months, it has become overwhelmingly evident that increased oversight and necessary reforms must be made to several state agencies in order to prevent a fiasco of this magnitude from occurring again. I am confident that the solutions offered in this legislation will require utility companies to meet strict criteria and present significant evidence before a single rate increase is approved in the future.”

Legislation in the package includes the following six bills:

H.4375 – Ratemaking – Would require the utility to pay for debt obligations, interest payments and shutdown costs associated with V.C. Summer; would halt the 18 percent rate payment on SCE&G consumers’ bills; and would authorize the state Public Service Commission to implement a new interim rate that protects ratepayers by lowering costs and removing all V.C. Summer fees;

H.4376 – Santee Cooper reform – Would end current board members’ terms; would create qualifications similar to updated PSC standards; would requires new or revised electric rates go through the PSC; and would ban abandonment costs from being added to new rates;

H.4377 – PSC reform – Would ends terms of current commissioners; would remove qualification exemptions and would set new criteria; and would requires commissioners to thoroughly question parties before making a decision;

H.4378 – Creation of Utility Oversight Committee – Would replace the Public Utilities Review Committee with a new 12-member board comprised of legislative and gubernatorial appointments;

H.4379 – ORS reform – Would create a utilities consumer advocate; would grant subpoena power to Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and the consumer advocate; and would remove a utility’s financial integrity from ORS’s concerns; and

H.4380 – Ratepayer refunds – Would authorize the PSC to require SCANA to issue refunds to the ratepayers.

Other bills pre-filed

House members filed other utility-related bills, as well as these highlighted bills:

Legislative ethics.  H. 4381 (Pitts), calls for the House and Senate ethics committees to serve as records keeper for legislative special interest caucuses, with other provisions. H. 4417 (Stavrinakis) would require additional reporting by lobbyists related to work with the Public Service Commission or Office of Regulatory Staff.

Daylight savings.  H. 4382 (Clemmons) seeks a statewide advisory referendum on whether the state should continue to observe daylight savings time.

Metal detectors.  H. 4386 (Gilliard) seeks metal detectors at all public schools by August 2018, with other provisions.  A related bill (H. 4387) would require cardiopulmonary resuscitation training for all public school teachers at schools with retaining ponds.

FOI review.  H. 4396 (Taylor) seeks to create a Freedom of Information Act review office within the Administrative Office of the Courts, with several provisions.

Repeal of monument law.  H. 4398 (Gilliard) seeks to repeal the state law passed in 2000 that protects war-related monuments and memorials on public property from being “relocated, removed, disturbed or altered.” This is the provision of law that allows Civil War monuments to remain in place; with several provisions.

De Laine statue.  H. 4400 (Jefferson) seeks to erect a Statehouse memorial to honor the late Rev. Joseph A. De Laine.

Party disclosure.  H. 4418 (Clemmons) seeks to require voter registration applications to add check boxes for political parties that applicants can check voluntarily, with other provisions.

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