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It’s just a bill

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

With heating bills skyrocketing across Illinois, a coalition of consumer advocates joined with key legislators on Monday to urge the Illinois General Assembly to eliminate a natural gas surcharge that has helped major utilities rapidly increase bills, plunging many families into crisis this winter.

At a news conference, AARP Illinois, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), Illinois PIRG and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called on the General Assembly to pass the Heating Affordability & Utility Accountability Act (House Bill 3941/Senate Bill 570). Sponsored by state Rep. Joyce Mason and state Sen. Cristina Castro, the bill would end the “Qualifying Infrastructure Plant” (QIP) surcharge on Peoples Gas, Nicor Gas and Ameren Illinois bills in 2022.

“The legislation passed in 2013 was intended to address safety issues for consumers, not to serve as a blank check for utility companies,” Rep. Mason said. “For too long, gas companies have been allowed to indiscriminately raise their prices with little to no oversight from state regulators. We need to hold these companies accountable for their actions and put an end to out-of-control heating costs.”

“The passing of the landmark Climate and Equitable Jobs Act was an important step in holding natural gas companies accountable. Now, this legislation will go even further to end unnecessary surcharges on our residents’ utility bills,” state Sen. Castro said. “We’re doubling down on our state’s commitment to protecting ratepayers and demanding transparency from natural gas companies.”

Illinois’ major utilities have launched expensive and aggressive infrastructure projects, which they fund through delivery charges on gas bills. In 2013, the General Assembly allowed them to add the QIP charge to bills. This regulatory shortcut allows utilities to recover certain costs more quickly and with less oversight from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

The utilities claim the surcharge is a necessity to pay for pipe-replacement and other work. While everyone agrees old pipes should be replaced, consumer advocates argue the utilities should do it in a responsible way that doesn’t cause hardship for their customers. Utilities are already legally obligated to replace pipes, and they did it for decades without hitting customers with a special surcharge.

On Monday, consumer advocates showed how the utilities have abused the QIP charge, using it to rake in revenue more quickly and increase bills in the most expensive winter since 2008-09.

    Peoples Gas: Supporters of the 2013 legislation claimed the QIP would only cost Peoples Gas customers about $13 a year, but they are now paying more than $13 a month, on track to pay $150 a year. Projected costs for the gas utility’s aggressive capital program have skyrocketed from about $2 billion to $11 billion, and an analysis by the Illinois Attorney General’s office estimated that gas bills could double over the next 20 years. The program has already begun to take its toll on customers: In December, 17 percent of Peoples Gas customers were behind on their bills, by a total of $77 million.

    Nicor Gas: Even though the state’s biggest gas utility has already replaced its old cast iron pipes, it continues to spend at a breakneck pace, spending over a billion dollars since it replaced its last cast iron pipe in 2018. Nicor has raised delivery rates by more than $500 million, or 77 percent, since 2018. That includes this past November, when it won a $240 million increase—the largest gas hike in Illinois history.

    Ameren Illinois: Even though Ameren has finished replacing cast iron pipes, the utility last year won a $76 million increase.

“We cannot afford these charges,” said Donna Carpenter, of Englewood, a parent leader with COFI/POWER-PAC IL. “Greedy gas companies have passed these ridiculous charges onto customers time and time again, harming low-income Black and Brown communities who either have to be cold or can’t afford to cook meals for their families because of sky-high gas prices. We need the Illinois Legislature to take action now!”

* From a publication called Politico Morning Tech

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to mark up the Open App Markets Act, S. 2710 (117), next week, spurring a new burst of lobbying by the bill’s supporters. But the real action on app store bills is still in the states, where several legislatures are poised to move bills aimed at paring back Apple and Google’s holds over their respective app ecosystems this year.

Here are the states to watch, according to lobbyists and advocates:

— Illinois: Democratic Illinois state legislators in both chambers earlier this month introduced the Freedom to Subscribe Directly Act, legislation that would give app developers the legal right to do business directly with their customers rather than having to work through Apple and Google’s payment systems. State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, a Democrat who represents Chicago, told MT she believes the legislation could help build out Illinois’ tech sector.

Illinois is an important state for app store regulation — it’s both the home state of Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier-Hansson, one of the strongest advocates for state and federal legislation, and Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, who is a co-sponsor of the federal app store bill. Feigenholtz told MT she is in communication with Durbin and his staff, and has a meeting set up to discuss the issue next week. “My sense would be that he would love to see Illinois move forward on this and possibly be the first state to have it,” Feigenholtz said. Durbin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

* Press release…

In an effort to support single working parents, State Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) initiated a measure that will allow them to claim unpaid time off from work to support their child’s needs.

“Single parents deserve the same rights and protections as parents who have partners,” said Simmons. “When I had the opportunity to meet with a group of these parents, many of them talked about the need for time off from work to meet with their children’s teachers or tend to other well-being needs of their kids.”

Senate Bill 4040 would allow employees who are single parents to take either five days or up to 40 hours of unpaid time off to care for a child’s needs- provided that the employees give their employers a sufficient period of notice. Needs include education, child care, or any duty a single parent may reasonably be responsible for.

Additionally, the measure would prevent an employer from discriminating in any way against an employee because they happen to be a single parent.

“One out of three households in my district are headed by single parents,” said Simmons. “I feel it is critical that my legislative work this spring should address their concerns about how to balance parental responsibilities with their work.”

The measure originated from a people’s legislative council that Simmons held with a group of single parents in 2021. The measure awaits a committee hearing.

…Adding… Press release…

Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39), introduced House Bill 5300 the Insulin for All Act, on Friday, January 28th. The legislation aims to make insulin more affordable and accessible for all Illinoisans.

The Act creates an Urgent Need Program, which would allow diabetics to access an emergency 30-day supply of insulin at a minimal cost from their local pharmacy. It also requires manufacturers to create patient assistance programs that offer low-cost insulin to eligible patients. The Act will leverage the state’s bargaining power to offer a negotiated price on insulin for any person with diabetes who can’t get it cheaper elsewhere. Lastly, it lowers the insulin copay cap to $35 a month.

In 2019, Rep. Guzzardi passed a law capping copays for insulin at $100 a month. As state laws can only cover certain types of insurance, the cap only affected around 15% of Illinoisans, and $100 a month remains unaffordable for many families and individuals who need insulin on a daily basis. There is a great need to lower that copay and provide alternatives for the 85% of people who aren’t covered by the current $100 a month cap, which this bill strives to accomplish.

“The past two years have been a vivid reminder that pharmaceutical research can produce incredible results. But no matter how great they are, drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39).

       

5 Comments
  1. - clec dcn - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 3:53 pm:

    My last 2 gas bills are almost double what they were last year in the same months. This last bill was gas cost of .61 cents per unit and a year ago it was .29 a unit of therms. I used less gas also in both months this year. Unfortunately this hits everyone since we all need heat. Those on the margins really are hurting for sure. Natural gas from all I remember was really the best way to go. Available an reasonable.


  2. - Downstate - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 8:27 pm:

    Fracking or high gas prices. You can have one or the other.


  3. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 8:32 pm:

    So the hypocritical environmental groups and legislators that supported a huge rate hike in CEJA now want to complain about utility bills. Hope they look in the mirror when looking for a scapegoat.

    Another one fits the same category. The enviro groups are opposing Marcus Evans bill to allow a wind project in Lake Michigan because of the cost. They just don’t want it in the Lake.


  4. - Reading - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 10:35 pm:

    It’s almost like arbitrarily eliminating clean cheap reliable energy sources in favor of expensive unreliable energy sources for purely political reasons has bad real world consequences.


  5. - From DaZoo - Tuesday, Feb 1, 22 @ 9:25 am:

    RE: Open Apps Market Act
    I get the understanding that major developers don’t want someone else taking a slice of their pie. The thing that may be overlooked is that both Google and Apple do some amount of vetting of the apps that are available in their respective stores. Also, individuals can already publish apps independent of these stores but it requires a lot more advertising to get the word out and more custom programming for any payment process.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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