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Auto rate hikes bill passes, but here’s why it might still die

It’s never good news to report that an automatic rate hikes bill has passed the General Assembly, but it turns out the measure might already be on life support.

Today, the Senate easily passed a bill to extend by two years, annual automatic rate hikes for ComEd and Ameren. That means more increases through 2019.

The hikes are supposed to support high-tech power grid improvements–collectively called the “smart grid.” While CUB is generally supportive of upgrading the grid because those improvements could save customers money, we opposed this bill as it raced through the General Assembly’s veto session. We argued that it’s much too soon to discuss  extending rate hikes when there isn’t enough data to evaluate whether the smart grid improvements have actually been working for customers.

Today’s vote in the Senate: 40-4-2. The vote in the House on Nov. 20 was: 87-24-1.

But those big margins may not be able to protect the vote. Steve Daniels, for Crain’s Chicago Business, reports that the bill may still be stopped—at least temporarily. He wrote:

If (Gov. Pat Quinn), who vetoed the original smart grid bill in 2011 and has vetoed changes to benefit the utilities since then, rejects this two-year extension, it may not get an override vote before the next General Assembly convenes in January. That would start the legislative process all over again. 

Interesting twist! We’ll keep you updated.