In 1910, the Public Service Commission was established to regulate public service companies within Maryland (Chapter 180, Acts of 1910). The Commission has jurisdiction over all gas, electric, telephone, telegraph, water, sewage disposal and steam heating companies operating within the State. The Commission may fix rates and suspend rate schedules pending the determination of the reasonableness of proposed rates. Public utilities may not abandon or discontinue any franchise without permission of the Commission.

Within Maryland, the Commission regulates common carriers engaged in the public transportation of passengers (except those carriers of passengers that come within the jurisdiction of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission). The Commission also has jurisdiction over all taxicabs operating in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Cumberland, and Hagerstown. In Baltimore City, the Commission licenses taxicab drivers. In addition, the Commission licenses drivers of passenger vehicles hired to carry fewer than 15 passengers. Since 1984, it also has set pilotage rates.

The Commission deals with rate adjustments; applications to exercise franchises; approval of issuance of securities; promulgation of new rules and regulations; and quality of utility and common carrier service. It has authority to issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for construction of new generating stations or transmission lines of a certain capacity.

The Commission may make joint investigations, hold joint hearings, and issue joint or other concurrent orders in conjunction with any official state or federal board or commission under agreements and compacts between states, under the concurrent powers of states to regulate interstate commerce as an agency of the federal government, or otherwise (Code Public Utility Companies Article, secs. 2-120). The General Assembly has provided that "the powers of the Commission shall be liberally construed" so that they may effectively deal with the dynamic nature of public service companies (Code Public Utility Companies Article, sec. 2-112).

Each utility and common carrier under Commission jurisdiction is assessed a proportionate share of the Commission's direct and indirect expenses.

Appointed by the Governor with Senate advice and consent, the Commission's five members serve five-year terms. The Governor names the chair. Appointed by the Commission, the General Counsel is an attorney-at-law of the State (Code Public Utility Companies Article, secs. 1-101 through 13-207).

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July 18, 2000   
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