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Baker: PSC’s vote for new chairman broke Georgia law
Attorney General Thurbert Baker ruled today that Georgia’s utility-regulating agency acted illegally last month when it chose a new chairman.
Baker ruled that state law establishing the process for choosing a chairman is constitutional and the commission did not have the authority to rule otherwise.
The PSC now must decide whether to abide by the opinion or proceed with seating Stan Wise as chairman for the two-year term.
State law specifies that the chairman will serve a one-year term and uses a rotation system to determine which member is next in line for the post.
A three-member majority elected Wise May 5 after deciding the law was unconstitutional. Member Doug Everett, who is stepping down as chairman effective July 1, said he believed the Georgia Constitution gives the PSC the power to decide how to choose a chairman.
Commissioner Chuck Eaton, one of two PSC members who voted against the decision, asked the attorney general’s office for the legal opinion on the law.
“I appreciate the Attorney General taking the time to answer all of my questions in his opinion,” Eaton said today. “Answering my request point-by-point speaks to the confidence he has in the law being constitutional.
“In light of the official opinion by Attorney General Baker, I hope that the PSC will reconsider its previous vote and follow the law as enacted by our State Legislature.”
Eaton has said he worries the PSC’s actions could face a court challenge next January, when the PSC would normally choose a new chairman. Anyone on the losing side of a PSC order could take the utility-regulating agency to court, alleging the chairman who signed the order was not selected properly, he said.