Power to the People: Lawmaker proposes change

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A local lawmaker has proposed an amendment to the law that dictates when and how public utilities can enter private property.

Representative Jeff Johnson introduced House Bill 4020 on March 22. It adds a law to the law that says, “The condemner shall mail, by first class mail, notice of its application for an ex parte order to the landowner at least five days prior to the execution of the ex parte order.”

Right now, Santee Cooper is in the process of building a transmission line connecting Marion to Red Bluff. When some landowners didn't agree to let the utility on their property to survey the land, Santee Cooper got a judge to sign an order ex parte, meaning the landowners weren't represented in court the day it was signed. In fact, several landowners told us they didn't know the hearing was happening.

“It appeared to me that the biggest problem was they were upset that a public utility was going to the court to get an order that affects their land or affects their interest somehow in the land without them being able to have an opportunity to show up to court to know what is going on,” Rep. Johnson said Thursday.
He's confident the bill will gain support once it gets through committees and comes up for a vote.
“I think it will because whenever I have bounced it off others if you will it seems to get good support as it is common sense,” he said. “It's common sense that a landowner/homeowner should know what's going on with their property when someone wants to come on it.”

Rep. Johnson did say he doesn't expect the change to happen quickly. He doesn't think the bill will get a vote before the session ends in May, but he does hope a sub-committee can approve it before lawmakers wrap up this year. Then, it would get a vote early next year.
Below is an image of the Johnson bill, click here to view it full-screen.

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