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Indicates Matter Stricken
Indicates New Matter
Indicates Matter Stricken
Indicates New Matter
May 27, 2004
S. Printed 5/27/04--H.
Read the first time April 21, 2004.
TO AMEND SECTION 23-47-65, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE CREATION OF THE CMRS EMERGENCY TELEPHONE SERVICES ADVISORY COMMITTEE, SO AS TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF TERMS A COMMITTEE MEMBER MAY BE APPOINTED TO SERVE, AND TO EXTEND THE PERIOD OF TIME IN WHICH THE COMMITTEE MAY EXIST.
Amend Title To Conform
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Section 23-47-65(A)(2) of the 1976 Code, as amended by Act 233 of 2000, is further amended to read:
"(2) All committee members, except the ex officio members, must be appointed for a three-year term by the Governor. Committee members may be appointed to
one subsequent term terms."
SECTION 2. Section 23-47-65(F) of the 1976 Code, as amended by Act 233 of 2000, is further amended to read:
"(F) On August 1,
2004 2007, the committee's existence terminates and all its duties and powers devolve to the board, except that the committee may continue to exist and function upon adoption by the General Assembly of a joint resolution extending its existence past August 1, 2004 2007."
SECTION 3. Section 58-9-280(I) of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 354 of 1996, is further amended to read:
"(I) The incumbent LECs subject to this section
shall must be authorized to meet the offerings of any local exchange carrier serving the same area by packaging services together, using volume discounts and term discounts, and by offering individual contracts for services, except as restricted by federal law. Individual contracts for services or contracts with other providers of telecommunications services shall must not be filed with the commission, except as required by federal law, provided that telecommunications carriers that have not elected to have rates, terms, and conditions determined pursuant to the plan described in Section 58-9-576(B) or that are not operating under an alternative means of regulation pursuant to section 58-9-575, 58-9-577, or 58-9-585, shall must provide access to such these contracts to the commission as required."
SECTION 4. Section 58-9-576(A) of the 1976 Code, as added by Act 354 of 1996, is amended to read:
"(A) Any LEC may elect to have rates, terms, and conditions determined pursuant to the plan described in subsection (B), provided the commission has approved a local interconnection agreement in which the LEC is a participant with an entity determined by the commission not to be affiliated with the LEC or the commission determines that another provider's service competes with the LECs basic local exchange telephone service, or the LEC is a 'small local exchange carrier' as defined in Section 58-9-10(14)."
SECTION 5. Section 58-9-576(B)(5) of the 1976 Code, as added by Act 354 of 1996, is amended to read:
"(5) The LECs shall set rates for all other services on a basis that does not unreasonably discriminate between similarly situated customers
; provided, however, that. All such of these rates are subject to a complaint process for abuse of market position in accordance with guidelines to be adopted by the commission. The commission shall resolve any such complaint within one hundred twenty days of the date it is filed with the commission. As used in this section, 'abuse of market position' means any anticompetitive pricing action that prohibits an equally efficient new firm from entering a market or that would cause an equally efficient firm to exit a market."
SECTION 6. Chapter 9, Title 58 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 58-9-285. (A) As used in this section:
(1) 'qualifying LEC' means any LEC operating under an alternative means of regulation pursuant to Section 58-9-575; any LEC that has elected to have rates, terms, and conditions for its services determined pursuant to the plan described in Section 58-9-576(B); and any LEC that has elected to have rates, terms, and conditions determined pursuant alternative means of regulation under Section 58-9-577;
(2) 'qualifying IXC' means any interexchange carrier operating under alternative means of regulation pursuant to Section 58-9-585;
(3) 'bundled offering' means:
(a) for a qualifying LEC, an offering of two or more products or services to customers at a single price provided that:
(i) each regulated product or service in the offering is available on a stand-alone basis under a tariff on file with the commission; and
(ii) the qualifying LEC has a tariffed flat-rated local exchange service offering for residential customers and for single-line business customers on file with the commission that provides access to the services and functionalities set forth in Section 58-9-10(9).
(b) for a qualifying IXC, an offering of two or more products or services to customers at a single price provided that each regulated product or service in the offering is available on a stand-alone basis under a tariff on file with the commission.
(4) 'Contract offering' means any contractual agreement by which a qualifying LEC or a qualifying IXC offers any tariffed product or service to any customer at rates, terms, and conditions that differ from those set forth in the qualfying LECs or qualifying IXCs tariffs.
(B) The commission shall not:
(1) impose any requirements related to the terms, conditions, rates, or availability of any bundled offering or contract offering of any qualifying LEC or qualifying IXC; or
(2) otherwise regulate any bundled offering or contract offering of any qualifying LEC or qualifying IXC. Without limiting the foregoing, purchasers of bundled offerings and contract offerings may submit complaints regarding such offerings to the commission, and the commission may provide a copy of such complaint to the qualifying LEC or qualifying IXC referenced in the complaint. The commission may endeavor to facilitate a voluntary and mutually-acceptable resolution of such complaints.
(C) A qualifying LEC or qualifying IXC providing bundled offerings or contract offerings is obligated to provide contributions to the Universal Service Fund (USF), and the commission shall ensure that contributions to the state USF, pursuant to Section 58-9-280(E) must be maintained at appropriate levels.
(D) Access minutes of use must continue to be classified and reported for purposes of administering the Interim LEC Fund, pursuant to Section 58-9-280(M), in the same manner as they were classified and reported before the effective date of this subsection (d).
(E) Nothing in this section affects any jurisdiction conferred upon the commission by 47 U.S.C. Section 254(k).
(F) Nothing in this section affects the commission's jurisdiction over complaints alleging that a change in a subscriber's selection of a provider of telecommunications service was made without appropriate authorization."
SECTION 7. The General Assembly finds that there are important public benefits to be gained by increasing the stability and predictability of rates charged by natural gas distribution utilities in South Carolina. These utilities purchase natural gas from interstate and intrastate suppliers and deliver it to customers through the local distribution systems that they own and operate. The prices charged by these utilities are already subject to routine adjustments for changes in the prices of natural gas suppliers. Those changes in price are passed through to customers annually, with appropriate review by the South Carolina Public Service Commission, in purchased gas adjustment proceedings.
There is, however, no similar means for the predictable and routine adjustment of these utilities' other rate components. These components reflect the utilities' current levels of investment, revenue, and expense. Changing these cost and revenue items requires filing comprehensive rate proceedings. These proceedings are both expensive and time consuming and their costs are ultimately borne by the customers of the utilities through rates and by the people of this State through the budgets of the Public Service Commission and Department of Consumer Affairs.
Furthermore, in an effort to avoid or postpone rate proceedings, utilities may forego or delay investments in beneficial expansions or improvements of utility infrastructure. In addition, because of the expense and complexity of these proceedings, utilities often delay filing them until the required rate increase is substantial, and the need for the increase cannot be delayed any longer. As a result, such filings often come at irregular intervals, reflect large one-time rate increases, and are difficult to postpone even in periods of economic downturn.
For these reasons, proceedings under existing provisions of law tend to create more perceived economic hardship for consumers and engender more public controversy than would smaller and more regular rate adjustments spread over a number of years.
Natural gas distribution utilities are especially well-suited to a more streamlined and predictable ratemaking mechanism that would allow for routine adjustments in rate components. Natural gas distribution utilities generally experience steady and predictable changes in cost as distribution facilities are added to serve a growing customer base.
The General Assembly has determined that the best interests of the State support establishing a mechanism for the regular and periodic adjustment of the base rates of natural gas distribution utilities, and for natural gas distribution utilities only. These adjustments shall take place under procedural safeguards which fully preserve the power of the Public Service Commission to conduct comprehensive rate proceedings whenever it determines doing so to be in the public interest.
The General Assembly is providing the state's natural gas consumers and its gas utilities with an efficient rate setting mechanism that will allow for more periodic yet generally smaller rate adjustments. It encourages investment in new, updated, and expanded gas infrastructure, thereby encouraging additional economic development in the State. It also dramatically reduces the costs of proceedings to adjust gas rates and thereby reduces costs for consumers and the public.
SECTION 8. Chapter 5 of Title 58 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
Section 58-5-400. This article may be cited as the 'Natural Gas Adjustment Act'.
Section 58-5-410. A public utility providing natural gas distribution service, in its discretion and at anytime, may elect to have the terms of this article apply to its rates and charges for gas distribution service, on a prospective basis, by filing a notice of the election with the commission. Upon receipt of notice of the election, the commission shall proceed to make the findings and establish the ongoing procedures required for adjustments in base rates to be made under this article. In carrying out the procedures established by this article with respect to such an election, the commission shall rely upon and utilize the approved rates, charges, revenues, expenses, capital structure, return, and other matters established in the public utility's most recent general rate proceeding pursuant to Section 58-5-240; provided, however, that the most recent such order must have been issued no more than five years prior to the initial election to come under the terms of this article. A public utility may combine an election under this article with the filing of a rate proceeding pursuant to Section 58-5-240 and the commission shall include the findings required by this article in its rate orders issued in the Section 58-5-240 proceedings, and the election shall remain in effect until the next general rate proceeding.
Section 58-5-415. The election by a utility to have the terms of this article apply to its rates and charges for gas distribution service once made shall remain in effect until the next general rate proceeding for the public utility pursuant to Section 58-5-240 at which time the public utility may then elect to continue the applicability of this article to its rates and charges or elect to opt out of the provisions of this article. The applicant may withdraw its request to come under the terms of this article at any time before the entry of a final order of the commission on the merits of proceeding in which the election is made or on a petition for rehearing in the proceeding.
Section 58-5-420. In issuing its order pursuant to Section 58-5-410, and in addition to the other requirements of Section 58-5-240, if a proceeding pursuant to that section is required:
(1) the commission shall specify a range for the utility's cost of equity that includes a band of fifty basis points (0.50 percentage points) below and fifty basis points (0.50 percentage points) above the cost of equity on which rates have been set;
(2) the commission separately shall state the amount of the utility's net plant in service, construction work in progress, accumulated deferred income taxes, inventory, working capital, and other rate base components. It shall also state the utility's depreciation expense, operating and maintenance expense, income taxes, taxes other than income taxes, and other components of income for return, and its revenues, its capital structure, cost of debt, and overall cost of capital and earned return on common equity. The figures stated shall be those which the commission has determined to be the appropriate basis on which rates were set in the applicable orders.
Section 58-5-430. The utility shall file with the commission monitoring reports for each twelve-month period ending on March thirty-first, June thirtieth, September thirtieth, and December thirty-first of each year, the filings to be made no later than the fifteenth day of the third month following the close of the period. These quarterly monitoring reports shall include the information set forth in Section 58-5-430. The quarterly monitoring reports required by this article shall show or include the following:
(1) the utility's actual net plant in service, construction work in progress, accumulated deferred income taxes, inventory, working capital, and other rate base components. The report shall also show the utility's depreciation expense, operating and maintenance expense, income taxes, taxes other than income taxes, and other components of income for return, and its revenues, and its capital structure, cost of debt, overall cost of capital, and earned return on common equity;
(2) all applicable accounting and pro-forma adjustments historically permitted or required by the commission for the utility in question, or for similarly situated utilities, or authorized by general principles of utility accounting, or authorized by accounting letters or orders issued by the commission. This authorization may occur either in a general rate hearing or in any other type of filing or hearing that the commission considers appropriate. However, other parties shall be given sufficient opportunity to review and provide comments on any proposed accounting letter or order issued after the initial order allowing future base rate adjustments pursuant to this article;
(3) pro-forma adjustments to annualize for the twelve-month period any rate adjustments imposed pursuant to this article or other events affecting only part of the period covered by the filing so that the annualization is required to show the effects of those events on the utility's earnings going forward;
(4) pro-forma or other adjustments are required to properly account for atypical, unusual, or nonrecurring events.
Section 58-5-440. In the monitoring report filed for the twelve-month period ending March thirty-first of each year, the utility shall provide additional schedules indicating the following revenue calculations:
(1) if the utility's earnings exceed the upper end of the range established in the order, the utility shall calculate the reduction in revenue required to lower its return on equity to the midpoint of the range established in the order;
(2) if the utility's earnings are below the lower range established in the order, the utility shall calculate the additional revenue required to increase its return on equity to the mid point of the range established by the order.
The utility also shall provide a schedule that specifies changes in its tariff rates required to achieve any indicated change in revenue.
The proposed rate changes, filed by the utility, shall conform as nearly as is practicable with the revenue allocation principles contained in the most recent rate order.
Section 58-5-450. The commission shall review the monitoring report filed pursuant to Section 58-5-440 to determine compliance with its terms taking into account any adjustments the commission determines to be required to bring the report into compliance with Section 58-5-440, and based upon the findings of any audit conducted by the office of regulatory staff concerning compliance with Section 58-5-440, the commission shall order the utility to make the adjustments to tariff rates necessary to achieve the revenue levels indicated in Section 58-5-440.
Section 58-5-455. The procedures contained in this section shall apply to monitoring reports related to the quarter ending March thirty-first.
(1) The utility shall file the monitoring reports with the commission on or before June fifteenth and simultaneously shall mail or electronically transmit copies to any interested parties who have requested in writing to receive them.
(2) Interested parties shall be allowed until July fifteenth to file comments in writing to the commission and the office of regulatory staff concerning the monitoring report.
(3) In cases where the monitoring report indicates rate adjustments are required, or where it otherwise appears to the commission that an adjustment in rates may be warranted under this article, the office of regulatory staff shall conduct an audit of the monitoring report and specify any changes that staff determines to be necessary to correct errors in the report or to otherwise bring the report into compliance with this article. The office of regulatory staff audit reports shall be provided to the commission, the utility and made available to all interested parties no later than September first.
(4) Interested parties shall be allowed until September fifteenth to file written comments with the commission and the office of regulatory staff related to the staff's audit report and shall simultaneously mail or electronically transmit copies of these comments to the utility and to all parties who previously appeared and filed comments.
(5) On or before October fifteenth the commission shall issue an order setting forth any changes required in the utility's request to adjust rates under this article. In the absence of such an order, the gas rate adjustment contained in the utility's filing shall be deemed to be granted as filed.
(6) Any gas rate adjustments authorized under the terms of this article shall take effect for all bills rendered on or after the first billing cycle of November of that year.
Section 58-5-460. Within thirty days of the issuance of an order pursuant to Section 58-5-450, or within thirty days of the failure by the commission to issue an order as required pursuant to Section 58-5-450, any aggrieved party may petition the commission for review of the order or failure to issue an order and all interested parties of record shall have a right to be heard at an evidentiary hearing on the matter.
Section 58-5-465. After conducting the hearing required by Section 58-5-460, the commission shall issue an order that:
(1) sets forth any changes that are required to the rates approved in the initial order issued under Section 58-5-455(5);
(2) determines the amount of any over or under collection by the utility that resulted from collection of the rates authorized in the initial order as compared to the rates authorized in the order issued under this section;
(3) establishes a credit to refund the amount of any over collection, or a surcharge to collect the amount of any under collection, and requires the utility to apply the credit or surcharge until such time as the over or under collection is exhausted.
The commission shall issue any order required under this section by February fifteenth of the year following the year in which the monitoring report was filed. The order shall make the corrected rates and the credit or surcharge, if any, effective as of the first billing cycle of March of that year.
The provisions of Sections 58-5-330 and 58-5-340 concerning rehearing and appeal shall apply to the orders issued pursuant to this section.
Section 58-5-470. The review of initial orders pursuant to Sections 58-5-460 and 58-5-465 is limited to issues related to compliance with the terms of this article. Matters determined in orders issued pursuant to Section 58-5-420 are not subject to review except in full rate proceedings pursuant to Section 58-5-240. Any proceedings pursuant to this article are without prejudice to the right of the commission to issue or any interested party to request issuance of a rule to show cause why a full rate proceeding should not be initiated, nor does this article limit the right of a utility to file an application pursuant to Section 58-5-240 for an adjustment to its rates and charges, nor does it impose the restrictions on filings contained in Section 58-5-240(F)."
SECTION 9. Chapter 9, Title 58 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 58-9-295. (A) No telecommunications service provider or any parent company, subsidiary, or affiliate of such a provider shall enter into any contract, agreement, or arrangement, oral or written, with any person or entity that does any of the following:
(1) requires such person or entity to restrict or limit the ability of any other telecommunications service provider from obtaining easements or rights-of-way for the installation of facilities or equipment to provide telecommunications services in this State or otherwise deny or restrict access to the real property by any other telecommunications service provider; or
(2) offers or grants incentives or rewards to an owner of real property or the owner's agent that are contingent upon the provision of telecommunications service on the premises by a single telecommunications service provider.
(B) Nothing in this section prohibits a user or prospective user of telecommunications service from entering into a lawful agreement with a telecommunications service provider with respect to the user or prospective user's own telecommunications service.
(C) Nothing in this section shall prohibit an entity described in subsection (A) of this section from entering into any contract, agreement, or arrangement, oral or written, by which an owner of real property or the owner's agent agrees to encourage users or prospective users of telecommunications service to select a particular telecommunications service provider. However, the contract, agreement, or arrangement may not restrict or limit the ability of any other telecommunications service provider from obtaining easements or rights-of-way for the installation of facilities or equipment to provide telecommunications services in this State and also may not require the owner or the owner's agent to refuse or restrict access to the real property by any other telecommunications service provider. All contracts, agreements, or arrangements made on or after the effective date of this section are void and unenforceable.
If the owner of real property or the owner's agent refuses access to another telecommunications service provider, then the telecommunications service provider that owns the telecommunications facility on such real property shall be required to offer the requesting telecommunications carrier consistent with state and federal law:
(2) unbundled network elements; and
(3) resale at wholesale rates any telecommunications service that the carrier provides at retail to subscribers who are not telecommunications carriers.
(D) Any telecommunications service provider who violates the provisions of this section shall be subject to penalties as set forth in Article 13, Chapter 9 of Title 58.
(E) Contracts, agreements, and arrangements subject to this section may be obtained by the Office of Regulatory Staff pursuant to Sections 58-4-50 and 58-4-55.
(F) For purposes of this section, 'telecommunications service provider' means a telephone utility as defined in Section 58-9-10(6), a government-owned telecommunications provider as defined in Section 58-9-2610(1), and a telephone cooperative as defined in Section 33-46-20(4)."
SECTION 10. Section 23-47-65(C)(4) of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 233 of 2000, is further amended to read:
conduct a cost study to be submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee one year from the effective date of this section and thereafter at the board's discretion. The board may include any information it considers appropriate to assist the General Assembly in determining whether future legislation is necessary or appropriate, but the report must include information to assist in determining whether to adjust the CMRS 911 charge to reflect actual costs incurred by PSAP's or CMRS providers for compliance with applicable requirements of FCC Docket Number 94-10; advise and report to the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee and to the board whether additional or alternative revenue sources are needed to fully develop and maintain the state's CMRS emergency telephone service and system; if additional revenues are identified and approved by the general assembly, the board shall direct the administration of any funds in accordance with the provisions of subsection (1) above. However, a report from the advisory committee must include information to assist the board in determining whether to adjust the CMRS 911 charge to reflect annual costs incurred by PSAP's or CMRS providers for compliance with applicable requirements of FCC Docket Number 94-10;
SECTION 11. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
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