The Death of Common Sense in the Legislature


Here are a few things worth noting in the battle over S.B. 31.

I applaud Georgia Power for getting on Peach Pundit to make its case. I’d note a couple of things about the statement:

(A). The statement does not actually say that Georgia Power will lose its bond rating if S.B. 31 fails. Why? Because it would not be true to say that. This is another scare tactic like “We’ll never build another power plant in Georgia if this doesn’t go through.”

(B) The statement does not say Georgia Power will not do the construction if S.B. 31 fails — something its lobbyists have been trying to make us believe would be the case.

Let’s deal with what is really at stake here. S.B. 31 is a vote of no confidence in the PSC. As Don Balfour said, the legislature created the PSC and the legislature can bypass the PSC if it wants.

Except, the PSC was created by the legislature to deal with very complex regulatory issues involving utility monopolies. The combined heft of the state legislature is not as smart in dealing with these matters as the professionals at the PSC.

According to Georgia Power’s post at Peach Pundit:

Senate Bill 31 will not affect the Georgia Public Service Commission’s (PSC) authority to approve the construction of the nuclear units and certify the cost that Georgia Power is allowed to recover. The PSC will monitor the construction of the nuclear units and Georgia Power will be able to recover only those costs that the PSC deems are prudently incurred. Senate Bill 31 only affects the recovery of the related financing costs while the units are being constructed.

If that’s the case, then why not let the PSC handle the financing costs?

In fact, if the statement as made is true, there really should be no need to go to the legislature. The PSC should be able to handle it. Why then go to the legislature? Because Georgia Power does not think the PSC will side with it against consumers and the legislature, which can be bought by Georgia Power in ways the PSC is statutorily prohibited from being bought, is convinced through experience or campaign donations that the PSC is broken.

The legislature need only look at the scrambling to undo Governor Perdue’s original transportation plans this year to see that the law of unintended consequences will plague their decision to bypass the PSC. How so?

Well, first it will signal to every lobbyist that for thirty pieces of silver and a blond, female lobbyist under the age of 30, the legislature will bypass all the institutions it has set up to take technical, non-political matters off its plate.

Second, S.B. 31 will add new burdens of compliance on the PSC and the regulatory framework within the PSC. For example, let’s say the legislature eventually realizes S.B. 31 was a bad idea. The PSC will not be able to fix the mess. The legislature will have to undo it.

If the legislature has no confidence in the PSC to do its job right, it should fix the PSC. It should not start whittling away at the PSC’s powers by making an already complex regulatory process more complex. There is no reason, by the way, that this bill *must* be done this year. The legislature can wait a year, come up with a framework to fix the PSC, then actually fix the PSC and let it do its job.

Right now, the legislature wants to carve out a loophole for a utility monopoly to bypass the watchdog without fixing the watchdog. In the process, the legislature is making an organization it apparently does not think can do a good job do an even worse job by carving out loopholes.

And again, the legislature is just providing further incentives for other organizations to bypass state regulatory bodies and go straight to the legislature. It’s an awesome way to generate campaign contributors, but a terrible way to actually govern a state.


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Erick Erickson

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