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Maneuver puts rate freeze legislation into limbo in Illinois

By Amanda Vinicky, IL Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – Democratic leaders of the Illinois Senate on Friday used a parliamentary maneuver that some say further clouds the chances of bringing down electric rates.

Some called it politics at its worst. Supporters of lowering power bills appeared to have enough votes to roll back rates for both Ameren and Commonwealth Edison customers.

But Democratic leaders stripped Com Ed from the measure, a move that is likely to doom its chances as it moves on to the Illinois House.

The sponsor of the measure, Democrat Gary Forby - whose southern Illinois district is served by Ameren - says he didn't do enough but at least he did something to help constituents suffering from the largest power price increases.

But he admits by passing a freeze only for Ameren, the measure is effectively dead, as the House Speaker is on record as insisting ComEd customers also see their rates go down to last year's levels.

Forby says he can't trust power companies' to follow through with their offers to give rate relief on their own. The entire scenario leaves consumers in the same situation as at the first of the year, when monthly bills doubled and even tripled in some cases.

It's unclear if further negotiations will result in a compromise before lawmakers' scheduled adjournment late next month.