H. B. 2859
(By Delegates, Frazier, Poore, Manypenny,
Barker, Hunt, Caputo, Pino, Longstreth,
Wells and Moore)
[Introduced January 26, 2011; referred to the
Committee on Government Organization then the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §24-1-3 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to the Public Service Commission; providing for election of commissioners; compensation; term of office; prohibiting contributions for election from utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission; and requiring the Public Service Commission to establish procedures for the removal of any of its commissioners for inactivity, neglect of duty or malfeasance.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §24-1-3 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS.
§24-1-3. Commission continued; membership; chairman; compensation.
(a) The Public Service Commission of West Virginia is continued and directed as provided by this chapter, chapter twenty-four-a, chapter twenty-four-b and chapter twenty-four-d of this code. After having conducted a performance audit through its joint committee on government operations, pursuant to section nine, article ten, chapter four of this code, the Legislature hereby finds and declares that the Public Service Commission should be continued and reestablished. Accordingly, notwithstanding the provisions of section five, article ten, chapter four of this code, the Public Service Commission shall continue to exist until July 1, two thousand three. The Public Service Commission may sue and be sued by that name. The Public Service Commission shall consist of three members who shall be appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate elected by the voters of this state in a manner provided in this section. The commissioners shall be citizens and residents of this state and at least one of them shall be duly licensed to practice law in West Virginia, with not less than ten years’ actual work experience in the legal profession as a member of a State Bar. No more than two of the commissioners shall be members of the same political party each commissioner shall, before entering upon the duties of his or her office, take and subscribe to the oath provided by section five, Article IV of the Constitution of this state. The oath shall be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State. The Governor shall designate one of the commissioners to serve as chairman at the Governor’s will and pleasure. The chairman who shall be elected by popular vote shall be the chief administrative officer of the commission. The chairman or any other commissioner may be removed from office for conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, malfeasance in the office or for a willful violation of this chapter or any rule, regulation or order provided in this chapter. Removal of a member shall be conducted in the manner provided in section three, article six, chapter six of this code. The Governor may remove any commissioner only for incompetency, neglect of duty, gross immorality, malfeasance in office or violation of subsection (c) of this section.
(b) The unexpired terms of members of the Public Service Commission at the time this subsection becomes effective are continued until the end of their respective terms or until the elected commissioners take office, whichever first occurs. There shall be three individual, partisan offices for commissioners, with one of the offices being for the chairman of the commission. Upon expiration of the terms, appointments are for terms of six years, except that an appointment to fill a vacancy is for the unexpired term only. The commissioners whose terms are terminated by the provisions of this subsection are eligible for reappointment. All three commissioners shall be elected at the general election to be held in the year 2012 for terms of four years, with one candidate from each major political party being selected for each office at the primary election in the year 2012. The commissioners whose terms are terminated by the provisions of this subsection are eligible for election. A person seeking election to the Public Service Commission, or reelection, may not accept contributions from the officers, employees or agents of any public utility subject to the provisions of this chapter.
(c) No A person while in the employ of, or holding any official relation to, any public utility subject to the provisions of this chapter or holding any stocks or bonds of a public utility subject to the provisions of this chapter or who is pecuniarily interested in a public utility subject to the provisions of this chapter may not be elected to serve as a member of the commission or as an employee of the commission. Nor may any commissioner be a candidate for or hold public office or be a member of any political committee while acting as a commissioner; nor may any commissioner or employee of the commission receive any pass, free transportation or other thing of value, either directly or indirectly, from any public utility or motor carrier subject to the provisions of this chapter. In case If any of the commissioners becomes a candidate for any other public office, or a member of any political committee, the Governor shall remove him or her from office and shall appoint a new commissioner to fill the vacancy created a vacancy shall be determined to exist in that commissioner’s office.
(d) The salaries of members of the Public Service Commission and the manner in which they are paid established by the prior enactment of this section are continued. Effective July 1, 2001, the annual salary of each commissioner provided in section two-a, article seven, chapter six of this code shall be paid in monthly installments from the special funds in the percentages that follow:
(1) From the Public Service Commission Fund collected under the provisions of section six, article three of this chapter, eighty percent;
(2) From the Public Service Commission Motor Carrier Fund collected under the provisions of section six, article six, chapter twenty-four-a of this code, seventeen percent; and
(3) From the Public Service Commission Gas Pipeline Safety Fund collected under the provisions of section three, article five, chapter twenty-four-b of this code, three percent.
In addition to the salary provided for all commissioners in section two-a, article seven, chapter six of this code, the chairman of the commission shall receive $5,000 per annum to be paid in monthly installments from the Public Service Commission Fund collected under the provisions of section six, article three of this chapter.
(e) The Public Service Commission shall establish procedures for the removal of any of its commissioners for inactivity, neglect of duty or malfeasance. The procedures must contain provisions requiring that the person be provided with a written statement of the reasons for removal, an opportunity to be heard on the matter, and a final vote on the matter forthwith by the other commissioners after the hearing has concluded.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to provide for the election of Public Service Commissioners for terms of four years. The bill requires the Public Service Commission to establish procedures for the removal of any of its commissioners for inactivity, neglect of duty or malfeasance.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.