Commissioners should answer for rate increase

Last week, we wrote about the Public Service Commission of South Carolina giving approval, once again, to raise rates on your electric bill. Many questions were asked of "Wrinkles" about how and why this could happen in these perilous times. From two sources, the Public Service Commission website and Rep. Bill Hixon, we found these answers to some of your questions.

The Public Service Commission of South Carolina is composed of seven commissioners, one commissioner from each U.S. Congressional District and one commissioner at-large. Chairman District 2 is David A. Wright; Vice Chairman from District 3 is Randy Mitchell; from District 1 is John E. "Butch" Howard; from District 4 is Elizabeth B. "Lib" Fleming; G. O'Neal Hamilton is for District 5; Nikiya "Nikki" Hall is District 6 and at large member is Swain E. Whitfield.

In 2010, the S.C. Public Service commissioners were each paid an estimated $160,272, according to the Council of State Governments.

Commissioners are elected during a joint session of the S.C. General Assembly to a term of four years. One commissioner is elected from each of the six commission districts and one is elected at-large. Rep. Bill Hixon said that, "anyone can run and file for these seats as long as they live in that congressional district. It has been the norm to rotate the seat by counties in the district. They come to the State House and ask each of us for our support. We vote for them in joint session. The most votes wins."

Regarding consumer complaints and inquiries, in March 2004, the General Assembly enacted legislation which created the Office of Regulatory Staff. As a result of that legislation, effective on January 2005, the Public Service Commission took on an exclusively quasi-judicial role. All resources for the investigation and resolution of consumer inquiries and complaints were assigned to the Office of Regulatory Staff. They can be reached by calling (803) 737-5230 or (800) 922-1531.

If the commissioners vote on raising rates, why don't they have to answer for it to the consumer, not be put off to another office created just for this? With tax payers paying more than $100,000 to them, they should be available at all times to answer these questions on why they voted to increase rates on a service we must have.

On the "Wrinkles" side, we remind you of a special date when Ms. Frieda Stauble, an American Indian (the real owners of this land) will talk about her book on growing up as another "minority" in South Carolina. It's an upbeat story of facing trials with determination. You'll also enjoy the delicious luncheonall for only $5, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Wesley Center at Grace United Methodist Church.