(a) If the commission pursuant to Section 1701.1 has determined that a ratesetting case requires a hearing, the procedures prescribed by this section shall be applicable. The assigned commissioner shall determine prior to the first hearing whether the commissioner or the assigned administrative law judge shall be designated as the principal hearing officer. The principal hearing officer shall be present for more than one-half of the hearing days. The decision of the principal hearing officer shall be the proposed decision. An alternate decision may be issued by the assigned commissioner or the assigned administrative law judge who is not the principal hearing officer. The commission shall establish a procedure for any party to request the presence of a commissioner at a hearing. The assigned commissioner shall be present at the closing arguments of the case. The principal hearing officer shall present the proposed decision to the full commission in a public meeting. The alternate decision, if any, shall also be presented to the full commission at that public meeting. The alternate decision shall be filed with the commission and shall be served on all parties simultaneously with the proposed decision.
The presentation to the full commission shall contain a record of the number of days of the hearing, the number of days that each commissioner was present, and whether the decision was completed on time.
(b) The commission shall provide by regulation for peremptory challenges and challenges for cause of the administrative law judge. Challenges for cause shall include, but not be limited to, financial interests and prejudice. All parties shall be entitled to unlimited peremptory challenges in any case in which the administrative law judge has within the previous 12 months served in any capacity in an advocacy position at the commission, been employed by a regulated public utility, or has represented a party or has been a party of interest in the case.
(c) Ex parte communications are prohibited in ratesetting cases. However, oral ex parte communications may be permitted at any time by any commissioner if all interested parties are invited and given not less than three days notice. Written ex parte communications may be permitted by any party provided that copies of the communication are transmitted to all parties on the same day. If an ex parte communication meeting is granted to any party, all other parties shall also be granted individual ex parte meetings of a substantially equal period of time and shall be sent a notice of that authorization at the time that the request is granted. In no event shall that notice be less than three days. The commission may establish a period during which no oral or written ex parte communications shall be permitted and may meet in closed session during that period, which shall not in any circumstance exceed 14 days. If the commission holds the decision, it may permit ex parte communications during the first half of the interval between the hold date and the date that the decision is calendared for final decision. The commission may meet in closed session for the second half of that interval.
(d) Any party has the right to present a final oral argument of its case before the commission. Those requests shall be scheduled in a timely manner. A quorum of the commission shall be present for the final oral arguments.
(e) The commission may, in issuing its decision, adopt, modify, or set aside the proposed decision or any part of the decision based on evidence in the record. The final decision of the commission shall be issued not later than 60 days after the issuance of the proposed decision. Under extraordinary circumstances the commission may extend this date for a reasonable period. The 60-day period shall be extended for 30 days if any alternate decision is proposed pursuant to Section 311.