On the 27th of February I posted Internet and Energy at the Bird Supper and Gretchen and I went to the Bird Supper in Atlanta and discussed those four bills with legislators. Our local elected officials were lobbying on the same side of many of the same bills. It's past crossover day now, when bills are supposed to be approved by one house of the Georgia legislature in order to be taken up by the other. How did that come out? We all beat the mighty telcos and cablecos on two bills! But Georgia Power is even mightier, and won on two bills. Plus one legislator's name is connected with 3 out of 4 of those bills. And our local delegation cancelled itself out on the one vote that actually went to the floor.
Internet Access: help stop two telecommunications bills
The local Industrial Authority, Chamber of Commerce, Valdosta City Council, and Lowndes County Commission have recently realized that fast Internet access is essential to attract businesses, for their employees to work at home, for applicants to apply for jobs, for students to submit assignments, and for general quality of life. And there's good news from the legislature!
HB 282 against muni broadband
This bill would prohibit local governments from providing Internet access if any local census block has 1.5Mbps access, thus taking away an option that local governments could use at least in bargaining with the telcos and the cablecos.
The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) were both against this one. We all won! HB 282 was voted down in the House 7 March 2013. Local legislative delegation votes:
Y :BLACK, 174TH
N :CARTER, 175TH
Y :SHAW, 176TH
N :SHARPER, 177TH
So Ellis Black and Jason Shaw voted for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and Comcast against our local governments and the people. Amy Carter and Dexter Sharper voted for us. Our local delegations' votes canceled each other out on HB 282. But we won anyway.
Now, will our local governments actually do something about making fast and affordable local Internet access available?
HB 176 for higher cell towers with less local government oversight
This really bad bill would let cell telephone companies build towers wherever they want to at any height, taking away local government power to regulate that.
The rationale the telcos had spread that was being repeated by legislators was that some local governments charged tens of thousands of dollars to apply to build a cell tower, then sat on the application for years and never approved it. Nobody had a single example of this ever happening in any specific location.
02/28/2013 Withdrawn from the General Calendar and recommitted to Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications
The mighty telcos didn't even have enough votes to risk bringing HB 176 to a vote. Sorry, Don "ALEC" Parsons: you lost two this year (HB 176 and HB 282), even though you got lots of money from the telcos and cablecos (according to Project Vote Smart):
Top SectorsCommunications & Electronics $12,075.00
Top IndustriesTelecom Services & Equipment $12,075.00
Energy: help pass two energy billsSolar power can be a distributed source of jobs in south Georgia. Antique laws and a subsidized nuclear boondoggle are hobbling solar power.
GA SB 51, The Georgia Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Act
Senator Buddy Carter has introduced a Senate bill for the current session of the legislature, SB 51, "The Georgia Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Act of 2001". It attempts to fix Georgia's special solar financing problem, the antique 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act, which says you can only sell power you generate to your one and only pre-determined electric utility, at whatever rate that utility sets.
And Georgia Power won again, as it has for years: Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities Chairman Jack Murphy wouldn't bring it to a vote to get it to the full Senate. Even the Georgia Municipal Association fell for opposing this one, claiming that it would require municipalities that generate their own power to buy power at a rate set by somebody else from people or companies that do their own generation. I can't seem to find that clause in the bill, and this is one I did read quite closely. Let's try again next year, maybe starting in the House this time, and first trying to convince GMA and ACCG.
HB 267 Financing costs; construction of nuclear generating plant
Stop Georgia Power from charging customers for cost overruns for Plant Vogtle, already 15 months behind schedule and a billion dollars overbudget for power that nobody has received, yet Georgia Power has already billed customers about $1.7 billion. Bipartisan cosponsors are Jeff Chapman (R—Brunswick) District 167 and Karla Drenner (D—Avondale Estates) District 85. This boondoggle on the Savannah River is what Georgia Power and Southern Company are doing instead of deploying solar inland and wind off the coast.
And Georgia Power won again: HB 267 never got out of committee. That would be the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee chaired by Don Parsons of ALEC. And in his campaign finances:
Top SectorsEnergy & Natural Resources $13,625.00
Top IndustriesElectric Utilities $3,250.00
Evidently Georgia Power's political clout isn't measured solely in dollars, since that $3,250 from Electric Utilities is less than the $12,075 from Telecom Services & Equipment. Or maybe the $18,725 from Lawyers & Lobbyists came largely from electric utility lawyers and lobbyists, which seems to be how it works in Georgia PSC elections.
Maybe we could use some real campaign finance reform in Georgia.