What’s on in Georgia this week?
Posted on Monday May 22, 2023 9:41 am
PSC Approves Increase in Georgia Power’s Fuel Expense Reimbursement Rate
The state Public Service Commission (PSC) on May 16 unanimously approved a Georgia Power proposed fuel cost recovery plan that will increase the average residential customer bill by $15.90 per month.
The rate hike, which goes into effect next month, was the result of an agreement between the Atlanta-based utility and PSC Public Interest Advocacy staff that will allow Georgia to absorb $2.1 billion in higher fuel costs incurred in the last two years, to get 100% back years away from its customers.
Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald blamed higher natural gas prices, which are beyond the Commission’s control. He said the Green New Deal pushed by the Biden administration was responsible for driving up both gasoline and natural gas prices.
At a recent hearing, McDonald argued that state law compels the commission to allow Georgia Power to reimburse higher fuel costs as referrals. The company does not make a profit from higher fuel costs.
“Just as Georgians paid higher prices at the pump in 2022, Georgia Power also paid more for natural gas and other fuels we use to generate electricity,” the company added in a statement released after the vote.
Representatives from environmental and consumer groups who have appeared before the commission in recent weeks have called on the PSC to reject Georgia Power’s fuel cost savings plan and instead ensure that the utility contributes to its use of solar and other forms of renewable energy increased power generation.
The increase in fuel costs is one of several Georgia Power has received in recent months or will seek in the coming months. The PSC approved a $1.8 billion increase last December, increasing average housing costs by $3.60 per month.
Rates are expected to pick up again later this year when Georgia Power commissions the first of two new nuclear reactors being built at Plant Vogtle, south of Augusta.
Regents will not increase tuition fees despite budget cuts
The University System of Georgia is sticking to its tuition fees despite a $66 million budget cut in March by the General Assembly.
The system’s Council of Regency unanimously voted on May 16 for an operating budget of $3.18 billion for fiscal 2024 with no tuition increases for the sixth time in the past eight years at 25 of the system’s 26 institutions.
Tuition at Macon’s Middle Georgia State University will increase by $19 per semester for domestic students and $66 per semester for international students to fund the second year of a three-year plan that will increase undergraduate tuition at that of other universities in Macon are to be aligned with the same academic sector.
Georgia’s public colleges and universities have the seventh lowest tuition in the country, Tracey Cook, the system’s chief financial officer, told Regents.
The 2024 budget, which goes into effect on July 1, increases spending by 2.1% over the budget approved by lawmakers last spring. This includes $87 million in living expenses increases for eligible employees and $7.5 million to cover enrollment growth.
The $66 million cut will be shared among 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 at the May 5 signing of the state budget.
Cook said those funds would remain in the system office and not be allocated to schools while the system awaited more information on how to deal with those cuts.
The state is releasing a new set of federal grants for pandemic relief
Gov. Brian Kemp announced May 18 that more than $225 million in federal pandemic relief funds will be used to fund 142 neighborhood improvements, including parks and sidewalks across Georgia.
Grants of up to $2.2 million will go to eligible nonprofits and local governments in low-income census areas to improve or maintain recreational facilities or to perform park or sidewalk repairs needed due to increased wear and tear on outdoor public infrastructure during of the pandemic are required.
Forty-nine of the 142 projects will receive $2.2 million in grants, including improvements to Augusta’s May Park, construction of an aquatic center in Baldwin County, expansions and renovations at the Butts County Senior Center, and the revitalization of the city’s Faison Park Oxford .
A detailed summary of each project award can be found at https://opb.georgia.gov/awarded-grants.
US Senate confirms Georgia woman in 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
The US Senate on May 18 narrowly confirmed Georgia civil rights attorney Nancy Abudu as the first black woman to serve on the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 49 to 47, mostly bipartisan, to confirm Abudu, who has faced criticism from Republicans during the confirmation process for her work for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) since 2019.
Most recently, Abudu served as director of strategic litigation for the SPLC. She also founded the Center’s Voting Rights Practice Group, a team dedicated to strengthening US democracy and protecting the voting rights of communities of color.
She previously worked for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Nancy Abudu is a champion of justice and a staunch public servant,” said Senator Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. “I am pleased that Ms. Abudu, a tireless advocate for the rule of law and a dedicated minister of communities throughout Georgia and the South, will soon be serving 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 several weeks in the Capitol due to illness before returning earlier this month.
The 11th Judicial District has jurisdiction over federal cases in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat news service