YOUR DAILY WEEKLY READER: Duke’s energy heist, legislative tantrums and new Scrabble words!
IT WOULD ONLY STAND TO REASON THAT A POORLY REGULATED UTILITY WITH A TERRIBLE HISTORY SHOULD HAVE TO PAY BACK ITS CUSTOMERS FOR FAKING A NUCLEAR REACTOR, RIGHT?: “Consumer advocates want Duke Energy Florida to refund $54 million the utility collected from customers for nuclear equipment that was never purchased. The advocates asked state regulators Monday to order Duke to give a credit in this year’s bills for equipment the utility sought for the now canceled Levy County nuclear project. Duke paid the money to its then-contractor Westinghouse Electric Co., but the equipment was never purchased. Duke is now suing Westinghouse in federal court in North Carolina to reclaim that money. But the utility has not agreed with consumer advocates that the money should be repaid before a judge’s decision. Westinghouse is counter-suing Duke for $512 million for canceling the contract for the nuclear project. If Duke loses the case, customers could be on the hook for at least part if not all of Westinghouse’s claim. Charles Rehwinkel, deputy state public counsel, who represents consumers before the Public Service Commission, called the potential loss to Westinghouse a “looming storm” that regulators needed to help guard customers against. “Do right by the customers,” Rehwinkel pleaded with the commission. Duke announced plans to cancel the two-reactor, $24.7 billion project last year in part because of licensing delays by federal regulators and after reports in the Tampa Bay Times showed it would be more cost effective to build a natural gas facility. By that time, the utility had already spent $1.5 billion on Levy plant siting, planning, engineering, parts, financing costs and its own profit — expenses state regulators passed on to Duke’s Florida customers in settlement agreements over the last two years. The average customer is paying $3.45 a month in their bills through early 2016 to cover the Levy expenses.” (via Tampa Bay Times)
CUE THE LITIGIOUS TEMPER TANTRUM FROM A REPUBLICAN LEGISLATURE SCORNED: “If incumbents are forced to run in regions they haven’t represented before, they lose all the advantage of incumbency, said Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida and a redistricting expert. “All they can do is spend campaign dollars, they can’t endear themselves to constituents,’’ he said. Lewis set an Aug. 20 hearing to hear arguments on a potential special election and asked the state’s secretary of state to propose a draft special elections schedule. He said the new maps will be effective by Aug. 21. But Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, on Monday told WBOB in Jacksonville, a conservative talk radio show, that Republican leaders want the changes to take effect in the 2016 elections because it is logistically impossible to do it this year. He said legislators will convene in session Thursday, correct the map “pretty easily” and be prepared to vote on a final plan by Monday. “Then the judge has got to make a decision,’’ Thrasher said. “Does he allow these new districts to go into effect for the 2016 election … or is he going to try rearrange the deck chairs” this year? Because overseas ballots have already be sent and returned by military voters, and early voting starts for the Aug. 26 primary, Thrasher predicted: “I think this guy’s got a real mess on his hands if he tries to rearrange these couple of congressional districts.” McDonald said the stand-off is likely to produce more litigation. He also noted that federal law sets the date for congressional elections “and a state court does not have the authority to alter the election in this way. “There’s potential legal consequences,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw litigation in federal court.” (via Miami Herald)
DO NOT – I REPEAT, DO NOT – PISS SENATOR BILL NELSON OFF: “The state is not doing its job to protect consumers from health insurance rate hikes. After passing up billions of dollars from the federal government for the state to expand Medicaid, Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature callously enacted a new law that, in essence, prevents the state’s insurance commissioner from regulating health insurance rates. The law, which state lawmakers passed and the governor signed, stripped the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation of an important responsibility: the authority to approve, modify or reject rate hikes by health insurance companies. I call it a callous decision, in part, because now the governor and some of those same legislators are poised to blame Obamacare for the coming rate increases. Florida once had some of the strongest state laws governing insurance. Now — as a result of the new state law — the commissioner is little more than a rubber stamp on health insurance rates. When the Legislature passed this bill, I wrote to the governor and asked him to veto it. He did not. Meantime, other states preserved their ability to regulate the cost of insurance. In Connecticut, for example, the two insurers in that state’s health insurance exchange proposed double-digit increases for the coming year. One insurer had its rate request rejected, while the other was allowed only a 3 percent bump. That’s why I am so disappointed when I read news accounts that say Republicans now intend to blame potential health insurance rate increases in Florida and elsewhere on Obamacare. If the governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature want someone to blame, they need look no further than the mirror.” (via Context Florida)
IS “VLOGGING” STILL A THING? CATCH UP, SCRABBLE: “To Scrabble fanatics, big gifts sometimes come in small packages. The word “te” as a variant of “ti,” the seventh tone on the musical scale, is a hardworking little gem among 5,000 words added to “The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary,” out Aug. 11 from Merriam-Webster. The dictionary’s last freshening up was a decade ago. Entries in the forthcoming book that include texter, vlog, bromance, hashtag, dubstep and selfie were mere twinkles on the racks of recreational players. But it’s the addition of te and three other two-letter words — da, gi and po — that has Robin Pollock Daniel excited. Daniel, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, is a champion of the North American Scrabble Players Association, which has a committee that helps Merriam-Webster track down new, playable words of two to eight letters. “Being able to hook an ‘e’ underneath ‘t’ means that I can play far more words,” explained Daniel, who practices Scrabble two to four hours a day. “Sometimes you play parallel to a word and you’re making two-letter words along the way. I call those the amino acids of Scrabble. The more two-letter words we have, the more possibilities a word will fit.” One woman’s te is another man’s “qajaq,” one of Peter Sokolowski’s favorites among the new words. He’s a lexicographer and editor at large for the Springfield, Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster. Qajaq, he said in a recent interview with Daniel, reflects the Inuit roots of kayak and would require a blank tile since Scrabble sets include just one Q. But it’s a rare word starting with “q” that doesn’t require a “u.” A bonus, to a word nerd like Sokolowski: qajaq is a palindrome, though that’s inconsequential in Scrabble.” (via AP)