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Rauner’s first bill puts him in a trick box

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015

* Finke

Two months after it passed the General Assembly, a bill has finally been sent to the governor that gives electric utilities, including Ameren, two additional years to recover costs of upgrading delivery systems.

The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Bruce Rauner who has until early April to decide whether to sign or veto the bill that provides rate increases to Ameren and Commonwealth Edison for installing smart-grid technology.

Rauner’s office issued a statement Tuesday saying only that the bill is under review.

The bill extends until 2019 a law that allows the two utilities to raise rates according to a formula. An original version of the bill called for the legislation to expire in 2017 which would have required the utilities to make a case for why it should be continued.

* Vinicky wrote about this yesterday

This is the first bill to reach Rauner, who has never before held elected office, and it’s hard to tell what he might do with it. Proponents of the measure say an updated, high-tech “smart grid” will make the state more attractive to businesses. Utilities ComEd and Ameren are also powerful lobbies. But a new governor — particular one who has advocated for lowering taxes — may also not want the first piece of legislation he signs into law to be one that consumers could view as an electric rate hike.

Not to mention the potential legal issues, given the measure’s carryover from the 98th General Assembly to the 99th.

“It’s pretty much unprecedented, the situation that we’re in now. I think it’s very much a legal gray area. Maybe even a dark gray area,” says Citizens Utility Board director David Kolata. He says that CUB may consider legal action should Rauner sign the extension into law.

That most certainly does pose an interesting question. Can a governor sign a bill that was passed during a previous General Assembly under a previous governor?

* Meanwhile

Community leaders have added their voices to the debate over the future of the nuclear power station in Clinton and two sister plants which face the risk of closure according to their owner, Exelon Nuclear.

Clinton Mayor Carolyn Peters joined the mayors of Morris, Oregon, East Moline, Braceville and Marseilles in letters sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner and top legislators like House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, stressing the importance of the plants to their cities and towns.

In their letter to Rauner, they warn of the economic fallout that would follow the closure of Clinton or the other plants in Ogle County and Rock Island.

“Illinois nuclear facilities provide thousands of good jobs; the kind of jobs you can support a family on…,” the mayors say in a letter dated Feb. 4. “Part of the upcoming debate in Springfield should focus on what these plants mean to their host communities. From our firsthand perspective, we can tell you that Illinois’ nuclear facilities are essential to helping our communities thrive.”

There’s no doubt that these are good jobs. There’s also no doubt that those communities depend on the taxes generated by the nuke plants.

But the question is whether the GA ought to be stepping in here. I’m not convinced either way yet.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

27 Comments
  1. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 11:50 am:

    I think a veto is an easy out for Rauner just on the Constitutional issue without regards to substance.

    Make the new GA send him a new bill. Give him some time to steady himself, which he clearly needs.


  2. - Salty - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 11:57 am:

    If he doesn’t have the constitutional authority to sign it, then he doesn’t have the constitutional authority to veto it either.

    I’m pretty sure there is an AG opinion from a while back that says this is ok. Similar situations exist when a Governor resigns or is impeached. The incoming Governor steps right into the role and has all the powers the former Governor had.


  3. - Not it - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 11:57 am:

    He should veto it using the legal issues as his excuse and punt it back to Madigan and Cullerton as a thank-you gift.


  4. - A guy - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:02 pm:

    The issues around an “Inter-GA” bill being legit or not seem to make this less of a trick box if he pursues the route advised by the first two commenters.


  5. - Ghost - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:14 pm:

    We pass taxes for individus and corporations. We then give latge wealthy individuals and coporations breaks and creidts so they dont pay the same effective tax rates as the middle class and small buisnesses.

    We the complain about the lack of tax revenues and call any suggestion that yhe wealthy lay the same tax rates without credits and deductions as the rest of us an unfair war on the wealthy.

    This company is teporting monster progits after paying huge salaries and bonuses at the tip. It does not need anything more.


  6. - Redux - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:16 pm:

    Oddly ironic that this is a utility issue and CUB is weighing in.


  7. - Juice - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:19 pm:

    The Governor can sign a bill passed by a previous Ga and under a previous Governor. Most of Quinn’s first bills that he signed were bills passed by the 95th GA while Rod was still Governor and not acted on until the 96th was sitting. The bigger issue for me is whether sitting on it for that long and whether that violates Article IV of the Constitution and the legal ability of the 99th GA to present the Governor with a bill that was passed during the 98th. But since neither Governor sued to force the GAs hand in sending it, my guess is the ball is legally now in Rauner’s court to decide on the merits of the bill and anything else is a cop-out.


  8. - duh - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:27 pm:

    This isn’t a gray area, there is precedent for this situation. The Governor has the power to sign it or veto it, but it is dead if he vetoes it.


  9. - Arizona Bob - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:28 pm:

    I worked in Clinton while the plant was being built. At first, it was a pretty nice historical town.

    Then, with all the money coming through with the construction workers, in came the drugs, thugs and ladies (and men) of ill repute. It wasn’t so “nice” anymore.

    Now there’s a lot of recreational value from Clinton Lake that will remain. I suspect that most of the station workers come from Decatur, Champaign, and Bloomington. If those jobs are lost, of course it would affect the local economy, but it will still be more prosperous than it was before the plant came. Property taxes will be reduced, and it will be a big problem putting the “genie back in the bottle” with what they’ve been used to overspending on schools, as was the case in Morris where there are also a lot of nukes.

    The point is that you can’t make this decision based upon a few local jobs. If maintaining the generating capacity makes long term economic sense, then you keep it running. If “mothballing” it due to low short term demand makes sense, and I can’t see how it would, then you do that.

    Decommissioning is very expensive, as is disposing of the spent fuel waste being stored at the site. It may be bad economics to close it now.

    The simple facts are that demand is down in the grid region due to decreasing population, de-industrialization, and less personal use of electricity, and the fossil generation generates cheaper power, for the time being. The problem is that the grid region generating infrastructure is old, little replacement generating capacity is being built, and there could be a real problem with energy supply in the near future.

    There needs to be a long term regional strategy here, and I’m just not seeing it from our “leadership” and the obscuring of a real plan due to the special interests.

    Pandering to the AGW hoaxers and eliminating the fossil fuel stations, or making them economically unviable, is also something that needs to be considered.

    I really hope that a plan is agreed upon and in place before a hasty decision is made.


  10. - Toure's Latte - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:41 pm:

    ==consumers could view as an electric rate hike==

    That would be because it includes a rate hike. Couldn’t even wait a couple years after the last gift bag.

    Amendatory veto with a much smaller rate increase, and requirement downstate nukes keep running.

    Might as well get it started. It won’t be the last AV by a long shot.


  11. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:45 pm:

    Rauner should veto the Bill, have it sent back, if they can get it passed again, then approach is job then as to what the Executive should do with the legislation.

    Too many moving parts. Veto it, move on.


  12. - Anon. - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:46 pm:

    The governor should throw constitutional concerns to the wind, and use his amendatory veto power to change the bill to deprive utilities workers of the right to organize.


  13. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:49 pm:

    All of Illinois’ atomic plants are aging-out. it is time to think about what comes after, and it isn’t going to be coal. Betting everything for the base load on fracked gas is not a safe play. I’d like to see plans to replace/retrofit these plants for the newer Gen 4 and Gen 5 nuclear plants that are much safer to operate.


  14. - Parnell - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 12:52 pm:

    Once again Com Ed is making up a purported crisis to raise rates. The mayors make the point that this will cost jobs if the bill doesn’t pass. No mention of the additional taxes on all the rest of the state. Its just a make work bill for their towns, and a windfall for Com Ed.


  15. - DuPage - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 1:19 pm:

    @Arizona Bob12:28=…demand is down in the grid…=

    In addition to the reasons you listed, on breezy nights, the grid ends up with excess power, and the wholesale market rate drops below what it costs for a nuke to produce. Nukes can not be shut off and on quickly, so they have to keep them running (at a loss) during those times. “Unintended consequences”.


  16. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 1:24 pm:

    AB, lol, you sure are down on capitalism, economic development, good jobs and money. I guess nothing good ever comes of that.


  17. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 1:32 pm:

    Send the bill back.


  18. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 1:35 pm:

    Sign it, veto it, explain why you think it unconstitutional to do either. Do something. Look like a governor… because you are….


  19. - Going nuclear - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 1:38 pm:

    The business model for large, centralized power stations (both nuke and coal) is being undermined by newer technologies, especially in deregulated markets like Illinois. Rooftop solar, demand response systems and smaller, more efficient natural gas plants are knocking at the door, with energy storage just around the corner. It will be interesting to see how Exelon and other power producers adapt to the changing electricity system.


  20. - Arizona Bob - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 1:53 pm:

    @going nuclear

    =demand response systems and smaller, more efficient natural gas plants=

    Actually the smaller gas plants, such as combustion generators, have a much higher cost of generation per kWh, that’s why they’re only used as “peaking” units.

    Natural gas is the solution, in addition to later generation nukes like those they just built in South Carolina, but that’s moving very slowly due to Washington and the WH.


  21. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 2:34 pm:

    == Similar situations exist when a Governor resigns or is impeached. The incoming Governor steps right into the role and has all the powers the former Governor had==

    They do, but only until the end of that term.

    If we can begin holding bills until a more sympathetic governor takes office within 30 days, then governors can begin holding vetoes until a more sympathetic GA takes office within 60 days. Better not to open this can of worms.


  22. - State Rep Mike Fortner - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 2:44 pm:

    Juice is correct about Quinn’s initial months as Governor. One of my first bills was HB334 of the 95th GA, filed in January, 2007. It didn’t pass the Senate until the lame duck session in January, 2009. It was sent to the Governor after Quinn took office, and he signed it in March, 2009. The law became PA 95-1039, so even though it was signed by a new governor after the 95th GA had adjourned sine die, it was still considered an act of the 95th GA.


  23. - Going nuclear - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 4:02 pm:

    AB,

    Google “natural gas combined heat and power.”


  24. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 4:24 pm:

    I’d like to see plans to replace/retrofit these plants for the newer Gen 4 and Gen 5 nuclear plants that are much safer to operate. There is one new nuke plant in the country that is anywhere close to coming on line, and 4 more that “might” be active by 2020. This after about 35 years of nothing new, and these new ones are all on the grounds of existing plants. At that rate, our IL nukes might all be replaced by the end of the century.


  25. - Joe Blow - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 4:29 pm:

    The bill on the Gov’s desk has nothing to do with Excelon and their nukes it merely extends the the formula rate for two years and still requires the ICC to approve ant rate increases.


  26. - yo - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 4:31 pm:

    legality aside, why sign this bill? no upside for Gov. He may be one guy who doesn’t need the utility’s money


  27. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Feb 25, 15 @ 4:40 pm:

    Bob:

    When’s the last time you’ve been to Clinton? Because your comment is about as off base as it gets with respect to that town. I grew up 10 miles from that plant. My dad was a worker there when it was being built. Never knew it to be a thug and drug town. Being from there, and all, I might have known about it. And if you had any clue you’d also know that Clinton schools don’t really fit into your “overspending” narrative. How about you take a trip there and then discuss it intelligently.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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