Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Plant Vogtle approval includes an election-year bonus for PSC incumbents


The utility will also continue charging ratepayers in advance. In fact, Georgia Power will be allowed to pass more costs onto its customers.

The PSC’s action also allows Georgia Power to do what some might call a little in-house electioneering on behalf of the two Republican PSC incumbents who will be up for re-election in 2018.

The motion to approve continued investment in the nuclear project, authored by Tim Echols, includes this command:

The Company will take a portion of the amounts received from the Toshiba Parent Guaranty and credit each customer with three $25 monthly credits to be received no later than the 3rd quarter of 2018. A line item on bills reading “Vogtle Settlement Refund” will appear beside each refund.

It is the timing that raises eyebrows. Let’s assume that, like any entity forced to cut loose of money it would prefer to keep, Georgia Power will wait as long as possible and send those refunds out in July, August and September.

This means that, just as the general election season is heating up (primaries are in May), every residential customer of Georgia Power will receive a trio of reminders that incumbent members of the PSC have the interest of ratepayers deep, deep in their hearts.

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The volatility of the Plant Vogtle decision could be seen in the reactions that flowed in from Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2018 race for governor. We posted them here.

Republican Michael Williams condemned “Plant Cronyism.” Clay Tippins, another Republican, pointed to the PSC’s “cozy relationship” with Georgia Power. Democrat Stacey Evans wants to end the early charges to ratepayers. Democrat Stacey Abrams said much the same.

But not a single candidate for governor called for abandonment of the project altogether.

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The AJC’s Matt Kempner writes today about the whistle-blowers who have been right about the mismanagement at Plant Vogtle – and were steamrolled anyway on Thursday. A taste:

Steven Prenovitz, who once successfully nagged me into digging through more than 1,000 pages of state records, can be irritating when he’s pursuing what he considers a grand cause.

But he’s been called worse.

“You are an abomination to this process,” Stan Wise, the chairman of an elected body of Georgia regulators, sputtered during a recent hearing.

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Over at Georgia Health News, Andy Miller reports that Georgia’s insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act experienced “an astonishing surge” in enrollment, roughly doubling to 482,904.

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You don’t often see this happening in an election year, but the AJC’s Mark Neisse reports that state lawmakers are contemplating a new tax on phone lines, TV subscriptions and perhaps even internet streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – all in order to help pay for extending broadband access to rural Georgians.

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In Memphis, two Confederate monuments – one to Nathan Bedford Forrest, the other to Jeff Davis – disappeared this week despite a Tennessee state law that insists decisions about such things on public lands are to be left to the state legislature. The Memphis city council voted Wednesday to sell wo parks for $1,000 each to a private nonprofit. Within hours, the statues had disappeared.

The AJC’s Richard Halicks checked. Georgia’s law on the topic is more tightly drafted, and the move would be illegal here.

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State Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s fight against in-house adjudications in sexual assault cases on university campuses has gone national. The lede of a Buzzfeed article:

In October 2016, officials at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University were considering the fate of a 20-year-old man accused of raping a classmate. A school investigation had already found the man culpable, and his accuser assumed he'd be thrown off campus.

Then an influential state representative, Earl Ehrhart, got wind of the situation.

Within weeks, Ehrhart had written directly to KSU's president, Sam Olens, blasting the case as "made for TV absurdity" and demanding to know why, if cops hadn’t pressed charges, the school hadn’t exonerated the student in the first place. A month later, the university did just that.

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Charles Davis is dean of the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, has penned a condemnation of cable news for Columbia Journalism Review.

Davis tees off on a weekend Fox News commentator’s use of the word “coup” to describe the Robert Mueller investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential race. But he doesn’t spare any outlet. A taste:

...And here we arrive at how a cable news channel could so recklessly throw around a word like “coup” to describe a legal investigation. A cornerstone of journalism is independence from those we cover. But cable news, the staple of so many Americans’ news diets, seldom practices journalism anymore, having sacrificed any semblance of distance from faction in favor of bread and circuses.

Yes, Fox and MSNBC and CNN, all have journalists doing journalism. Yet each one employs shills who spew unverified garbage and do the bidding of political masters. It’s too much to ask of the viewing public to parse it all, to decide what the news is amid innuendo and opinion. Today, the most significant cable-news deliverable is confusion, which disserves the public and violates the profession’s mission....

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Georgia’s federal lawmakers on Thursday made their latest overture in what has become an annual appeal for new funding for harbor deepening work at the Savannah port. The entire delegation signed onto a letter sent to White House budget director Mick Mulvaney yesterday, urging the administration to propose $100 million for the project in its upcoming fiscal 2019 budget. “We respectfully submit that we have a project that is fully underway, that will deliver proven benefits and has maximum matching support from the local sponsor,” the bipartisan letter states.

The number the White House selects is pretty much the dollar amount Congress has to stick with in its government spending bills because of an earmark ban. Backers of the project were livid earlier this year when the administration decided not to give the project any more money beyond the $43 million appropriated by Congress -- only half of what backers said was necessary to keep the Savannah project on track. (Tamar Hallerman)


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.