In Governor's Quinn veto message of Senate Bill 1652, the Governor said the “bill grants unprecedented advantages to Illinois utilities that have a less than stellar record for providing reliable service,” citing the recent storms in the Chicagoland area that resulted in persistent power outages for more than 1.5 million residents. Additionally, Governor Quinn asserted ComEd and Ameren would have benefited from “advantages,” particularly a new formula rate that would have allowed for rate increases the Governor indicated were vastly out-of-step with services available to consumers.
However, proponents continue to push the smart-grid system, saying that embracing the new technology will distinguish Illinois as a leader in electric delivery systems. The new system would reportedly reduce power outages, leading to better quality and more reliable electric service. The smart-grid system also gives consumers greater ability to monitor their electric usage, which translates to money-savings and promotes conservation by consumers.
The new system is also reportedly thought to be a draw for both new and relocating businesses, in addition to the 2,450 jobs Ameren and ComEd would be required to create. Senate Bill 1652 requires Ameren to create 450 jobs, while ComEd must create 2,000. Each company faces a $3,000 fine for each job not created.
Lawmakers will consider the Governor’s veto during the upcoming fall legislative session, but legislators are expected to continue working with ComEd and Ameren in the interim to negotiate a compromise. ComEd has already expressing a willingness to reduce the rate formula criticized by Quinn to make it more fair to consumers, and is being pushed to resume consideration of a fund that will reduce the impact of a rate hike on elderly and poor consumers.
SEEKING PUBLIC COMMENT ON HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGES
Also during the week, the Illinois Health Benefits Exchange Study Committee welcomed testimony from insurance industry representatives and consumer and healthcare advocates at a meeting September 15 in Springfield.
The bipartisan committee is using public testimony to help it draft legislation for financing and organizing federally-mandated health insurance exchanges, which are being established to help uninsured residents and small businesses. I am proud to serve as co-chair for this Committee.
At the September 15 meeting, insurance advocates stressed the importance of allowing independent agents to be involved in the sale of health coverage through the future exchanges. Several industry witnesses also urged lawmakers to allow insurance representatives to participate as part of the oversight board governing the exchanges. However, consumer advocates testifying before the committee questioned the insurance industry’s place on the board as a conflict of interest.
The Committee is scheduled to meet next at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Chicago.