In Room 5F of the Fulton County Superior Court building this morning, two men who separately dominated the state Capitol for a half-dozen years sat side-by-side before Judge Ural D. Glanville, preparing to run a tag-team assault on Georgia Power.
At the outset, Glenn Richardson, the former, fiery Republican House speaker did the talking. Former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, sat at Richardson’s left hand.
“The case is about Georgia Power charging sales tax on your bill for a couple things we don’t think they should be charging it on – the nuclear costs,” Richardson said during an early break. “I had a client asked me to look at it. She said it seemed unfair, and I started looking at it, and said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ I’d never heard of charging sales tax on a nuclear financing cost. It was never discussed when it came to us.”
The gentleman knows of what he speaks, and that is only one of the ironies here. The legislation that has allowed Georgia Power, for the last 15 months, to charge ratepayers for financial costs associated with the construction of two new nuclear power plants, was passed in 2009 during Richardson’s final session as the second- most powerful man in the Capitol.
Six months later, after an attempted suicide – the result of a still-furious bout of depression and a divorce – Richardson resigned. This is something of a comeback case for the Paulding County attorney.
Richardson estimates that Georgia Power has charged ratepayers an extra $93 million to $100 million by adding perhaps 13 percent to the nuclear finance charge. “The tax code is clear – you can’t charge a tax on a tax. It says that,” the former speaker said. That’s small change to 2.4 million customers – maybe $1 to $3 a month for homeowners, he said. But it could mean a good deal of money for the state or local government – presuming the utility is sending the collected sales taxes to their proper destinations.
How did he come to invite Barnes to the fight?
“We’ve been friends,” Richardson said. “My first office down at the Capitol – I shared an office with him [in 1996]. We’ve handled cases together in the past. And we’ve consulted. My dad knew his family, and I know his family. He is, frankly, one of the best attorney minds in the state. I wanted somebody that was very sharp and gets the joke.”
That’s a stellar endorsement that comes two years late for Barnes, who lost a 2010 bid to reclaim the governor’s office.
“We may be at opposite ends of the political spectrum on some of our positions, but we know right from wrong. And this is wrong. I don’t know what will happen in court, but Georgia Power shouldn’t be doing this,” Richardson continued.
As for his personal health, Richardson says he still wrestles with the black dog. “I’m good. I struggle. I miss some of it. But I also have a great weight lifted off me. I don’t have to worry about what people are saying about me. It’s okay. The stress level in those jobs – if you’re really trying to do a good job – is very high. And I was always conscientious. I worried about it, and as you can see, it rode me to the ground. It took a toll on me,” Richardson said.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider