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ComEd 'Smart Grid' Trailer Bill Approved By Illinois House, Senate, Override Of Quinn's Veto Likely

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PAT QUINN
Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.) during an Oct. 25 press conference in Springfield, reacting to the state Senate approving a version of a bill he previously vetoed. | AP

Members of both the Illinois House and Senate this week approved, in veto-proof majorities, a trailer bill to ComEd and Ameren's "smart grid" legislation previously blocked by Gov. Pat Quinn, and paved the way to the utility's rate hike.

On Wednesday, the Illinois House voted 91-24 in favor of the legislation, which will likely increase average monthly utility bills by approximately $3 in order to fund the implementation of the utility's "smart grid" technology, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved the bill by a vote of 37-20, Crain's Chicago Business reported. Now all that stands between the utility and its rate hike are override votes from both the House and Senate.

After the Senate approved the legislation, Quinn told reporters, "There's no way to put perfume on this skunk, and that's what it is. ... It's harmful to the public and the public interest," according to the Sun-Times.

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who was the trailer bill's Senate sponsor, countered, "There is nothing in this trailer bill that is controversial or bad for consumers," according to the Chicago Tribune. After the original bill faced criticism, the utility made several concessions, including lessening the amount of profit they are guaranteed and providing assistance to seniors and low-income customers.

The AFL-CIO and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers sent representatives to Springfield to rally support for the bill Tuesday. The unions say the bill will provide some much-needed jobs.

When Gov. Quinn vetoed the utility's original bill last month, he described it as "a dream come true for Commonwealth Edison, but it's a nightmare for Illinois consumers." He and other opponents of the legislation saw it as a "Trojan horse" meant to boost the utility's profits. ComEd argued in response that the rate hike and the technology it would fund will actually improve service and save customers money in the long haul, despite the short-term hike.

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