While negotiators kept trying Tuesday to settle the controversy over Illinois’ dramatically higher electric rates, Senate President Emil Jones said his chamber might vote today (Wednesday) on legislation to roll back electric rates to 2006 levels and freeze them there.


 


 

While negotiators kept trying Tuesday to settle the controversy over Illinois’ dramatically higher electric rates, Senate President Emil Jones said his chamber might vote today (Wednesday) on legislation to roll back electric rates to 2006 levels and freeze them there.


 


“I resent all of the stalling that’s been taking place as it relates to those negotiations,” Jones, D-Chicago, said after leaving a separate budget-negotiating session with Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other legislative leaders. “We just may, even though I’m opposed to it, let them go ahead and have the freeze. That’s the way I feel about it.”


 


But Jones also said that senators who previously supported a rate freeze now don’t want one.


 


“Now they’re saying exactly what I’ve been telling them all along, the freeze does not solve the problem,” Jones said.


 


Lawmakers have been hearing for months from constituents who are upset about soaring power bills. Beginning in January, the cost of electricity rose substantially for customers of Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois because of the expiration of a long-standing rate freeze that was part of the state’s 1997 deregulation law. For some people, power bills doubled or tripled.


 


The rate-freeze legislation, House Bill 1750, is meant to ease the financial burden on customers of ComEd, AmerenCIPS, AmerenIP and AmerenCILCO. Gov. Rod Blagojevich repeatedly has said he would sign a rate-freeze bill.


 


ComEd and Ameren say such a law coul lead to bankruptcy for them. They have vowed to fight it in court.


 


The Senate has been positioned to vote on the rate-freeze bill for weeks. The House of Representatives approved it earlier in the year.


 


Spokespeople for Ameren and Commonwealth Edison would not disclose much Tuesday about the status of the negotiations, saying only that progress is being made.


 


Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria, has sat in on some of the negotiations and regularly gets updated about them.


 


“They’re close in a way,” he said Tuesday, but many details still must be worked out. “I hesitate to say we’re close to an agreement. There’s an awful lot of people involved in these negotiations, and it’s very complex.”


 


He said he believes there remains “a real possibility” the Senate could vote on a rate freeze.


 


“I think at some point in time, Senator Jones will say, ‘OK, we’re going to call the bill because we can’t come to an agreement,’” Risinger said. “To say we won’t come to an agreement, I’m not to that point yet.”