Because the House has called a rare Committee of the Whole meeting for Tuesday, I asked my intern Paul to put this together. It’ll give you some idea what’s going on out there…
* House leaders announce rare Committee of the Whole meeting
The leadership said legislators are prepared to hear testimony from all interested parties for as long as is necessary. Members of the public, business owners and representatives of social service agencies that have been affected by higher electric rates are encouraged to attend and share their views with lawmakers.
* Democrats call for freeze while announcing Tuesdayâ€™s meeting
The proposal House Democrats unveiled at a state Capitol news conference on Friday would roll back electric rates to their 2006 levels and revive the rate freeze for at least three years. It also would require utility companies to give refunds, plus interest, to consumers for the extra money they have been paying with the higher electricity rates.
* Where does the Senate fit in
But the House proposal could be stymied by the Senate, which did not act on a different House-backed freeze extension in January.
Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) has denounced a potential freeze. The Senate last month approved a phase-in plan that would spread the rate increases out over several years, but the plan was never called for a vote in the House.
* Utility company voices concern
ComEd issued a statement Friday reiterating previously stated concerns about proposed rate rollbacks or freezes, saying such action “could cause ComEd to lose $1.4 billion annually — or $4 million per day — and put the company on the path to bankruptcy.”
* Phil Kadner: skeptical of results
If Scully, who is a legislator in Halvorson’s district, can’t convince her that a rate freeze is needed, I don’t see how he can expect to convince anyone else in the Senate.
And even if the House votes to freeze rates, as it did last fall, it will have no meaning if the bill can’t make it to the Senate floor.
This entire situation is the result of a corrupt regulatory process in Illinois.
The utility companies have far too much political influence in Springfield.
Consumers don’t stand a chance.
* Lawmakers still posturing
Some don’t seem eager to take up the cause, saying a drop in rates would mean poor service from Ameren and ComEd.
“They were darn near closing down,” said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. “There’s a lot of political posturing going on.”
* Huge bill increases prompting the concern
But some downstate customers, especially those who donâ€™t use natural gas to heat their homes, have seen much larger spikes. Lawmakers say theyâ€™ve heard from people whose January bills doubled or tripled because of the rate increases.
* Many hit particularly hard with increases
One young manâ€™s bill increased from $190 in January to $365 in February, an increase of $174 or 92 percent, the Mayor reported. â€œIf he delayed to pay for three years, it would add [an additional] $140 on to what is billed in three years.â€
Numbers given in testimony Monday night also included February (and January) totals for comparison: Pauline Rieber - $111.40 ($63.46); Dorothy Pigg - $ 95 ($56); Joyce Marquis - $250 ($137); Steve Free $307.23 ($209); Debbie Walton $301.26 ($150); and Karen Littleton - $365.41 ($192.45.)
* Small businesses feeling particular pain
John Jarvis owns The Little Store, a small doughnut shop in Troy, Ill., that employs him and his wife. It’s an all-electric building, and his electricity bill rose to $987 in January from $406 in December. “We can’t pay it. Business has been slow because of the winter weather. We’re going to have to put the business up for sale,” Jarvis said.