Ill. lawmakers OK electricity measure despite veto

October 26, 2011 4:26:07 PM PDT
Illinois lawmakers voted Wednesday to override Governor Pat Quinn's veto of the smart grid legislation.

The bill which is now law will raise rates and help ComEd fund a massive upgrade to its system.

The new law will allow for rate hikes of at least $3 a month for most customers. The governor said late Wednesday afternoon that he is "disappointed with the override." He had argued that the bill was big on profits for the utilities and low on oversight.

But, after changes were made to the bill, enough lawmakers were swayed.

It was a stunning defeat for the governor. Both houses, by the required three-fifths majority, overrode his veto of the so-called smart grid bill, which will allow ComEd to pay for infrastructure improvements through rate hikes.

"No one likes rate-hike increase potential opportunities out there, but in the long run it really is a good thing for everyone," said State Sen. Ron Sandack, (R)-Downers Grove.

The override came after a so-called trailer bill was passed, tweaking the original vetoed bill, and adding some consumer protections.

Lawmakers who voted against it said it didn't go far enough.

"I'm sorry the bill passed, because right now ComEd will be able to have automatic increases for the next 10 years," said State Rep. Greg Harris, (D)-Chicago. "I think they need to justify each one."

"I did vote for the original bill," Sandack said. "I was pleased that the trailer bill occurred because the governor's veto actually improved the bill. I think he needs credit in that regard because it made the trailer bill occur, and I think a better bill was the result.

Also Wednesday in the senate: Debate on a revised gambling bill, because the governor has said he will veto legislation passed last May because it allows for slot machines at horse racing tracks. The new bill strips that proposal.

"We're trying the governor's concept. We're going to see if it works. Maybe this is the concept that'll work. I don't know. I'm not an expert," said State Sen. Terry Link (D)-Lincolnshire.

But instead of compromise, the governor sees gamesmanship.

The new bill is likely to be voted down, thereby forcing the governor's hand on the issue. Instead, he wants the senate to send him the original bill, which has been held up so he can veto it.

"Stop the game playing," Quinn said. "Stop the delays and whatever else they're doing over there. They passed their masterpiece on May 31. Bring it on. Make my day."

"If we lose that revenue and the corresponding delay in paying bills, the corresponding lack of ability to provide tax relief, that is going to sit right at the foot of the governor," said State Sen. Matt Murphy, (R)-Palatine.

Legislators and the governor do agree on one key revision of proposed gambling expansion: The establishment of five new Illinois casinos, including one in Chicago. The full senate could vote on that bill Thursday.

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The bill is HB3036. Online: www.ilga.gov

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