SENATE BILL NO. 643
AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 86, TITLE 29, DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TO CREATE THE OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:
Section 1. Amend Chapter 86, Title 29 of the Delaware Code by adding thereto a new subchapter which shall read as follows:
"SUBCHAPTER III. OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE
§8640. Establishment of the Office of the Public Advocate
(a) There is established within the Department of Community Affairs and Economic Development of the Office of the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate shall be a person qualified by training and/or experience to perform the duties of this office. The Public Advocate shall be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the majority of the Senate and shall hold office at the pleasure of the Governor during the Governor's term of office and until the appointment and qualification of the Public Advocate's successor. The Public Advocate shall be a full-time employee of the State of Delaware.
(b) No person shall be eligible for appointment to be Public Advocate who owns or controls, in his own name or as a fiduciary, or Whose spouse or minor child residing in his household owns or controls, any stock, note or debenture in any public utility, or who holds any office or position with any public utility or whose employment or vocation depends directly upon or is under the control of a public utility.
(c) The Public Advocate shall comply with and be held strictly accountable for compliance with the highest standards of Chapter 58A, Title 29 of the Delaware Code and Section 22, Article II of the Delaware Constitution. The Office of Public Advocate is an agency subject to the provisions of Chapters 64 and 100, Title 29 of the Delaware Code.
§8641. Salary and Expenditures
(a) The salary of the Public Advocate shall be $30,000 annually.
(b) The Office of the Public Advocate shall submit its budget requests to the General Assembly as any other separate agency in accordance with Chapter 63, Title 29 of the Delaware Code, Chapter 65, Title 29 of the Delaware Code and all other applicable statutes.
§8642. Powers and Duties
The Public Advocate shall have the following powers and duties:
(a) To appear before the Public Service Commission on behalf of the interest of consumers in any matter or proceeding over which the Commission has jurisdiction and in which he deems the interest of consumers requires such participation.
(b) To advocate the lowest reasonable rates for consumers consistent with the maintenance of adequate utility service and consistent with an equitable distribution of rates among all classes of consumers.
(c) To appear on behalf of the interest of consumers in the courts of this state, the federal courts, and federal administrative and regulatory agencies and commissions in matters involving rates, service and practices of public utilities.
(d) To hire, from time to time, as needed, in connection with proceedings before the Commission experts in the utility regulation field, including but not limited to economists, cost of capital experts, rate design experts and, to the extent staff of the Public Service Commission cannot be utilized, accountants, engineers and transportation specialists. An aggregate sum of not less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for compensation and/or expenses of these experts shall be provided annually in the budget, and if not used for this purpose shall revert to the General Fund of the State Treasury. Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the Public Advocate from applying to the General Assembly for additional funds in specific instances, including emergencies, and from receiving such additional amounts as the General Assembly shall determine.
(e) To have the same access to and the same right to inspect any and all books, accounts, records, memoranda, property, plant facilities and equipment of public utilities as is granted to the Public Service Commission by Section 2 of Title 26, Delaware Code.
(f) To have full access to the records of the Public Service Commission.
(g) To call upon the assistance of the staff and experts of the Public Service Commission in the performance of his duties.
(h) To appoint, fix the compensations and terms of service and prescribe the duties and powers of such staff as may be necessary for the proper conduct of the work of the Office of Public Advocate, within the conditions and limitations imposed by the Merit System of Personnel Administration.
§8643. Proceedings before the Public Service Commission
(a) The Public Service Commission shall notify the Public Advocate of all hearings and meetings of the Commission and shall forward to the Public Advocate copies of all applications submitted by public utilities and all formal complaints and petitions filed with the Commission. No formal action taken by the Commission, without proof of the receipt of notice by the Public Advocate, shall have any legal effect.
(a) The Public Advocate shall be entitled to be present and be heard at any meeting of the Public Service Commission.
(b) When the Public Advocate shall determine to intervene in a matter before the Public Service Commission, he shall file a statement to that effect with the Public Service Commission. Thereupon, he shall be deemed a party in interest and shall have full power to present evidence, subpoena and cross-examine witnesses, submit proof, file briefs, appeal and do any other act appropriate for a party to the Commission.
§8644. Council to the Public Advocate
(a) The Council to the Public Advocate is established and shall serve in an advisory capacity to the Public Advocate concerning matters within the jurisdiction of the Public Advocate and such other matters as may be referred to it by the Governor, the Secretary of Community Affairs and Economic Development, or the Public Advocate. The Council may also study, research, plan and advise the Public Advocate, the Secretary, and the Governor on matters it deems appropriate to enable the Public Advocate to function in the best possible manner.
(b) The Council to the Public Advocate shall be composed of seven members, appointed by the Governor. The terms of the members shall be staggered. The first two appointees
shall serve for a term of one year, the next two appointees shall serve for a term of two years and the next three shall serve for a term of three years. Thereafter, all new appointees shall serve for a term of three years.
(c) At least three, but not more than four, members of the Council shall be affiliated with one of the major political parties, and at least two, but no more than three, members shall be affiliated with the other major political party, provided, however, that there shall be no more than a bare majority representation of one major political party over the other major political party. Any person who declines to announce his political affiliation shall also be eligible for appointment as a member of the Council.
(d) Members of the Council shall serve without compensation, except that they may be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses incident to their duties as members of the Council.
(e) A chairman of the Council shall be chosen by the members of the Council from among its members and shall serve in that capacity for a term of one year and shall be eligible for re-election.
(f) Any appointment pursuant to the provisions of this section to replace a member whose position becomes vacant prior to the expiration of his term shall be filled only for the remainder of that term."
Section 2. If any provisions of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of this Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the provisions of this Act are hereby declared to be severable.
Approved July 12, 1978.