Senate Bill 31 to allow Georgia Power to charge Georgians upfront for the construction cost of two planned nuclear reactors was expected to come up for a floor vote today. But it didn't even make it onto the debate schedule. Why was this?
Word is, because the votes aren't there which would mean Sen. Don. Balfour, R-Snellville, the powerful Senate Rules chairman, hasn't yet managed to persuade several of his fellow Republicans to support his mucho controversial bill.
Some of the hold-outs, I was told, include Pres. Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and Sen. Dan Weber, R-Dunwoody, a usually conscientious pol who isn't afraid to break party ranks. So I asked Weber.
"I'll probably support the bill," he told me. "My concern is that Georgia is facing a substantial shortfall in [electrical] generating capacity."
Fair enough, but Georgia Power has said it would build the two nukes even if the bill doesn't pass.
Well, Weber said, the numbers he's been shown while frighteningly complex and hard to follow suggest that the upfront financing model could save the public some money in the long run.
But if it's such a great deal, then why have the utility's big retail and industrial customers effectively chosen to opt out by getting Balfour to exempt them? What do they know that isn't being said in the bill's sales pitch?
Weber had to run back inside for a vote, but I got the impression he may still be on the fence. Even if the bill passes the Senate, it may not fare well in the House. After all, what's the upside for legislators to support a bill that will raise their constituent's power bills sooner rather than later? Again, I ask, why is the General Assembly dealing with a matter that's clearly in the purview of the Public Service Commission?
Perhaps Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said it best when describing the bill's ultra-complicated funding formula to fellow senators: "The other math you need to know is that the PSC is elected every six years, while we're elected every two years."
[CORRECTION: I originally called Williams the Senate Majority Leader. That was wrong.]
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