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State Senator Joe Markley (R-16) won election to his seat back in November, and he is already making waves in his new position.
The Connecticut State Supreme Court has agreed to hear Markely's lawsuit against the Department of Public Utilities, in which Markley charges that a surcharge on utility bills is illegal.
Markely had originally brought the lawsuit late last year, but it was dismissed by a lower court when the judge in the case determined that Markley, a Senator-elect at the time, had not exhausted his “administrative remedies” before filing the suit.
However, last week, the Supreme Court decided it would hear the case during an upcoming session.
Markley's lawsuit stems from the Department of Public Utilities decision to levy a surcharge, which Markely believes will serve as a tax, on energy bills, which the state would then use to cover a portion of the $650 million borrowed for the state budget last year. The surcharge, according to Markley's office, would average approximately $4 to $5 per household, per month.
"This tax is unfair for two reasons: It is levied by a state agency, which doesn’t have the authority to do so; and there are six towns that would be exempt from paying the tax," said Markley, in a statement released last week. “As a result, not all Connecticut citizens are being hit with the extended utility charges to help shore up the state's budget.”
The towns of Wallingford, Norwich, Bozrah, Groton, Norwalk and Lebanon will be exempt from the surcharge because electric-generating facilities are located there.
The Department of Public Utilities, however, has argued that Markley cannot sue it because it was simply acting under the order of the state legislature, which passed the measure last year. Also, in his decision dismissing Markley's original case, Judge Henry Cohn suggested that soverign immunity, whereby state and federal governments cannot be sued, might apply.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that, because of the case's “implications and importance,” it would hear the case, and is expected to do so in March.