The 15 percent cut to their budget passed the House Thursday without a murmur of protest on the floor. It originated within the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee.
But the legislation that would alter their elections is bipartisan.
Democrats are backing House Resolution 152, sponsored by Rep. Craig Gordon, D-Savannah on Feb. 3. It would add two commissioners to the five seats on the panel that regulates the state's utilities, bus lines, moving companies and limo services. Gordon's measure is a constitutional amendment, which means it requires two-thirds of the legislature to support it.
Considering all five of members of the PSC are Republicans, it's unlikely enough GOP lawmakers would vote to add more seats and open the door to electing Democrats to the panel.
However, a newer bill, House Bill 154, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Quincy Murphy that would require PSC candidates to be elected by district rather than statewide. While Murphy is an Augusta Democrat, he convince Republican Ben Harbin of Evans to sign on as the first cosponsor. As a bill, it requires a smaller majority to pass.
Murphy said the reason for his bill is that limiting elections to a district would make the commissioners more responsive. He decided to introduce it last year when then-Commissioner Bobby Baker sent a staffer to a town-hall meeting in Augusta rather than attending himself.
Baker, however, did not seek re-election last year and was succeeded by Tim Echols who held a public forum in Augusta Thursday evening.
"No one really knows who their commissioner is, but they really play a major role in the lives of all of our citizens," Murphy said.
The PSC hasn't taken a formal stance on the budget cut or the pending legislation. Commissioner Chuck Eaton was at the Capitol Thursday and did offer his personal opinion.
"The issues we deal with are statewide. They're not of a district nature," he said.
Adding two commissioners would cost roughly $500,000, including salary, benefits and staff. At a time when the state is struggling financially, that seems too expensive, he said.
Although the PSC recently approved rate hikes for the two largest utilities it regulates, Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light, Eaton said commissioners weigh every consideration that they would if they were elected by district.
"The ultimate balance of the Public Service Commission is having capacity versus competitive rates," he said. "I think we do a pretty good job at that."