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Hill: Senate approves SB 31
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A controversial bill passed the Senate on Feb. 11 with a 38-16 vote in favor of the bill. SB 31 would clear the way for Georgia Power to build two additional nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro. The decision to build or not build the $14 billion project will be made by the Public Service Commission in March. The PSC will also prescribe the pre-payment of interest by rate payers during the construction of the plants.

Beginning in 2011, individual rates would increase to allow for the recovery of financing costs associated with construction. Georgia Power owns about 40 percent of the project while the Municipal and Rural Electric Corporations own the other 60 percent. Additionally, the Municipal and Rural Electric Corporations can recoup construction and financing costs during construction.  

Currently some other Southeastern states allow utilities to recover, in advance, both financing charges and construction costs. SB 31 only allows the up-front recovery of interest and finance charges while during construction. The issue being debated was the financing mechanism and insuring that subsequent decisions by future Public Service Commissions would not alter the way interest recovery is calculated.  Construction is expected to produce roughly 3,500 jobs.  

Amendments on the floor insured that the profitability of the company would be considered in future rate cases.  Also the senior citizen discount program was expanded to 200 percent of the current poverty rate or about $18,000 in income to qualify.

Additional Senate action last week
The following legislation passed the Senate:  
• SB 8: Allows students to self administer epinephrine. This legislation would permit local boards of education to adopt a policy that will allow students to carry self-administered injectable epinephrine to treat allergic reactions.

• SB 24: Puts into law a progressive sanction system that probation officers can use without going back to court.      

• SB 14: Provides that no person who is on the national or state sex offender registry shall be eligible for election to or service on a local board of education.

• SB 63: Exempts health insurance plans maintained by 2 or more accredited independent Georgia colleges from needing an insurance license.  The colleges must have combined assets of more than $100 million  and must be members of the Georgia Foundation for Independent Colleges (GFIC).

• SB 5: Requires all passengers in the front seat of a pickup truck to use seatbelts.

• SB 49: Would allow graduates of certain non-traditional nursing programs to be licensed.

Legislation introduced
Bills of interest that have recently been introduced in the Senate:  
• SB 71: Sets same standards for charges of hunting or boating under the influence as driving under the influence standards.  

• SB 80: Would provide requirements for testing of samples or specimens of foods by food sales establishments for the presence of dangerous substances. Tied to the peanut contamination case.

• SB 96: Would provide and conduct, at least semiannually, training on the duties and responsibilities of lobbyists and the mechanics of filing and registration.

• SB 100: Would dissolve the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council and create an accountable oversight board to be named the Georgia Public Defenders Agency.

• SB 122: Covers employee insurance and benefit plans. Repeals and divides the Georgia Retiree Health Benefit Fund and creates the Georgia State Retiree Health Benefit Fund and the Georgia School Retiree Health Benefit Fund.

• SB 124: Removes the release of social security numbers and medical information from Freedom of Information requests.

• SB 132: Raises the mandatory school attendance to age 17.

• SB 136: Would require the Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to participate in the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Rapid Removal of Eligible Parolees Accepted for Transfer (REPAT).

• SB 142: Enhances penalties for acts of family violence.

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