237.295 Assessment of regulatory expenses.
Subdivision 1. Payment for investigation. (a) Whenever the department or commission, in a proceeding upon its own motion, on complaint, or upon an application to it, considers it necessary, in order to carry out the duties imposed on it, to investigate the books, accounts, practices, and activities of any company, parties to the proceeding shall pay the expenses reasonably attributable to the proceeding. The department and commission shall ascertain the expenses, and the department shall render a bill for those expenses to the parties, at the conclusion of the proceeding. The department is authorized to submit billings to parties at intervals selected by the department during the course of a proceeding.
(b) The allocation of costs may be adjusted for cause by the commission during the course of the proceeding, or upon the closing of the docket and issuance of an order. In addition to the rights granted in subdivision 3, parties to a proceeding may object to the allocation at any time during the proceeding. Withdrawal by a party to a proceeding does not absolve the party from paying allocated costs as determined by the commission. The commission may decide that a party should not pay any allocated costs of the proceeding.
(c) The bill constitutes notice of the assessment and a demand for payment. The amount of the bills assessed by the department under this subdivision must be paid by the parties into the state treasury within 30 days from the date of assessment. The total amount, in a calendar year, for which a telephone company may become liable, by reason of costs incurred by the department and commission within that calendar year, may not exceed two-fifths of one percent of the gross jurisdictional operating revenue of the telephone company in the last preceding calendar year. Direct charges may be assessed without regard to this limitation until the gross jurisdictional operating revenue of the telephone company for the preceding calendar year has been reported for the first time. Where, under this subdivision, costs are incurred within a calendar year that are in excess of two-fifths of one percent of the gross jurisdictional operating revenues, the excess costs are not chargeable as part of the remainder under subdivision 2.
(d) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (e), for purposes of assessing the cost of a proceeding to a party, "party" means any entity or group subject to the laws and rules of this state, however organized, whether public or private, whether domestic or foreign, whether for profit or nonprofit, and whether natural, corporate, or political, such as a business or commercial enterprise organized as any type or combination of corporation, limited liability company, partnership, limited liability partnership, proprietorship, association, cooperative, joint venture, carrier, or utility, and any successor or assignee of any of them; a social or charitable organization; and any type or combination of political subdivision, which includes the executive, judicial, or legislative branch of the state, a local government unit, an agency of the state or a local government unit, or a combination of any of them.
(e) For assessment and billing purposes, "party" does not include the department of public service or the residential utilities division of the office of attorney general; any entity or group instituted primarily for the purpose of mutual help and not conducted for profit; intervenors awarded compensation under section 237.075, subdivision 10; or any individual or group or counsel for the individual or group representing the interests of end users or classes of end users of services provided by telephone companies or telecommunications carriers, as determined by the commission.
Subd. 2. Assessment of costs. The department and commission shall quarterly, at least 30 days before the start of each quarter, estimate the total of their expenditures in the performance of their duties relating to telephone companies, other than amounts chargeable to telephone companies under subdivision 1, 5, or 6. The remainder must be assessed by the department to the telephone companies operating in this state in proportion to their respective gross jurisdictional operating revenues during the last calendar year. The assessment must be paid into the state treasury within 30 days after the bill has been mailed to the telephone companies. The bill constitutes notice of the assessment and demand of payment. The total amount that may be assessed to the telephone companies under this subdivision may not exceed one-eighth of one percent of the total gross jurisdictional operating revenues during the calendar year. The assessment for the third quarter of each fiscal year must be adjusted to compensate for the amount by which actual expenditures by the commission and department for the preceding fiscal year were more or less than the estimated expenditures previously assessed. A telephone company with gross jurisdictional operating revenues of less than $5,000 is exempt from assessments under this subdivision.
Subd. 3. Objection. Within 30 days after the date of the mailing of any bill as provided by subdivisions 1, 2, 5, and 6, the parties to the proceeding, against which the bill has been assessed, may file with the commission objections setting out the grounds upon which it is claimed the bill is excessive, erroneous, unlawful, or invalid. The commission shall within 60 days issue an order in accordance with its findings. The order shall be appealable in the same manner as other final orders of the commission.
Subd. 4. Interest imposed. The amounts assessed against any telephone company or other party that is not paid after 30 days after the mailing of a notice advising the telephone company or other party of the amount assessed against it, shall draw interest at the rate of six percent per annum, and upon failure to pay the assessment the attorney general shall proceed by action in the name of the state against the telephone company or other party to collect the amount due, together with interest and the cost of the suit.
Subd. 5. Administrative hearing costs; appropriation. Any amounts billed to the commission or the department by the office of administrative hearings for contested case hearings held pursuant to section 237.25 shall be assessed by the commissioner or the department against the parties to the proceeding. The assessment shall be paid into the state treasury within 30 days after a bill, which constitutes notice of the assessment and demand for payment of it, has been mailed to the parties. Money received shall be credited to a special account and is appropriated to the commissioner or the department for payment to the office of administrative hearings.
Subd. 6. Extended area service balloting account; appropriation. The extended area service balloting account is created as a separate account in the special revenue fund in the state treasury. The commission shall render separate bills to telephone companies only for direct balloting costs incurred by the commission under section 237.161. The bill constitutes notice of the assessment and demand of payment. The amount of a bill assessed by the commission under this subdivision must be paid by the telephone company into the state treasury within 30 days from the date of assessment. Money received under this subdivision must be credited to the extended area service balloting account and is appropriated to the commission.