What’s Going on in Georgia this week!
Published 9:41 am Monday, May 22, 2023
PSC approves Georgia Power fuel costs recovery rate increase
The state Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved a fuel costs recovery plan submitted by Georgia Power May 16 that will increase the average residential customer’s bill by $15.90 per month.
The rate hike, which takes effect next month, was the product of an agreement between the Atlanta-based utility and the PSC’s Public Interest Advocacy staff that will let Georgia recover 100% of $2.1 billion in higher fuel costs it has incurred during the last two years from its customers.
Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald blamed higher natural gas prices that are beyond the commission’s control. He said the Green New Deal pushed by the Biden administration is responsible for driving up both gasoline and natural gas prices.
At a recent hearing, McDonald argued that state law requires the commission to let Georgia Power recover higher fuel costs as a pass-through. The company does not earn any profit from higher fuel expenses.
“Just as Georgians paid higher prices at the gas pump in 2022, Georgia Power also paid more for the natural gas and other fuels we use to generate electricity,” the company added in a statement issued following the vote.
Representatives of environmental and consumer advocacy groups that appeared before the commission in recent weeks asked the PSC to reject Georgia Power’s fuel costs recovery plan in favor of the utility stepping up its use of solar and other forms of renewable energy in generating electricity.
The fuel costs recovery increase is one of several Georgia Power has already received in recent months or is poised to seek in the months ahead. The PSC approved a $1.8 billion increase last December that increased the average residential bill by $3.60 per month.
Rates are expected to go up again later this year when Georgia Power brings into service the first of two new nuclear reactors being built at Plant Vogtle south of Augusta.
Regents won’t raise tuition despite budget cut
The University System of Georgia is holding the line on tuition despite a $66 million budget cut the General Assembly imposed in March.
The system’s Board of Regents voted unanimously May 16 in favor of a $3.18 billion fiscal 2024 operating budget with no increase in tuition for the sixth time in the last eight years at 25 of the system’s 26 institutions.
Tuition at Middle Georgia State University in Macon will increase by $19 per semester for in-state students and $66 for out-of-state students to fund the second year of a three-year plan to bring undergraduate tuition into alignment with other universities in the same academic sector.
Georgia’s public colleges and universities rank seventh-lowest in the nation for tuition costs, Tracey Cook, the system’s chief fiscal officer, told the regents.
The fiscal 2024 budget, which takes effect July 1, increases spending by 2.1% over the budget lawmakers approved last spring. It includes $87 million in cost-of-living raises for eligible employees and $7.5 million to cover enrollment growth.
The $66 million cut will be allocated across the system’s 26 institutions, Cook said.
In addition to the $66 million cut, Gov, Brian Kemp ordered the university system to “disregard” $6.2 million in spending approved by the General Assembly when he signed the state budget May 5.
Cook said those funds will be retained in the system office rather than allocated to the schools while the system awaits further information on how to handle those reductions.
State releases new batch of federal pandemic relief grants
More than $225 million in federal pandemic relief funding will be used to finance 142 neighborhood improvements including parks and sidewalks across Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp announced May 18.
Grants of up to $2.2 million will go to eligible nonprofits and local governments in low-income census tracts to improve or maintain recreational facilities or for park or sidewalk repairs needed due to increased wear and tear on outdoor public infrastructure during the pandemic.
Forty-nine of the 142 projects are receiving $2.2 million grants, including improvements to May Park in Augusta, construction of an aquatic center in Baldwin County, additions and renovations at the Butts County Senior Center, and revitalization of Faison Park in the city of Oxford.
A detailed summary of each project award can be found at https://opb.georgia.gov/
U.S. Senate confirms Georgia woman to 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed civil rights lawyer Nancy Abudu of Georgia May 18 to become the first Black woman to serve on the Atlanta-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 49-47 primarily along party lines to confirm Abudu, who faced criticism from Republicans during the confirmation process over her work since 2019 for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Most recently, Abudu was the director of strategic litigation for the SPLC. She also established the center’s voting rights practice group, a team dedicated to strengthening U.S. democracy and protecting the voting rights of communities of color.
Before that, she worked for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Nancy Abudu is a champion for justice and a stalwart public servant,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. “I’m pleased Ms. Abudu, a relentless advocate for the rule of law and a dedicated servant to communities across Georgia and the South, will soon sit on the 11th Circuit Court.”
Abudu’s nomination by President Joe Biden was held up in the Senate by the absence of Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., who missed weeks at the Capitol due to illness before returning earlier this month.
The 11th Circuit has jurisdiction over federal cases arising in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.
By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service