Legislative News from Senator Don DeWitte

Downstate Ameren electric rates increase
In the 33rd District, outside of St. Charles, Batavia, and Geneva, which have their own electric utility company run by the cities, electricity is provided by Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). While ComEd customers have seen an increase in their bills, the increase they’re seeing is nothing like what downstate consumers are experiencing. Downstate, where consumers rely on Ameren Illinois for energy, they are bracing for a more than 40% increase in electric rates. Not only will this rate increase lead to higher electric bills that customers can expect to see in late June/early July, but there will also be the potential for controlled outages and brownouts this summer.

Why are ComEd customers not experiencing the same sharp increase right now that downstate consumers are seeing? For now, subsidies and rebates are in place to protect ComEd consumers. Unfortunately, those protections expire soon, and without further action to lock in future costs, ratepayers in this region will see big rate hikes as soon as this fall.

In Ameren’s case, it recently received electric rate results from the regional grid operator (MISO), which include a staggering increase from $5/megawatt to $236/megawatt. It is this increase that will cause Ameren’s electric rates to increase significantly.

Overall, the energy cost increase is a result of many factors, including power supply prices going up because of global market pressures and recent public policy that prioritized renewable energy (solar and wind)—which has resulted in many fossil fuel plants closing, creating a capacity shortage in the region that covers Ameren Illinois customers.

I am following the issue closely and will keep everyone apprised of developments through this newsletter.

 

DeWitte attends Chicagoland Chamber annual meeting
It is no secret that the pandemic, combined, with anti-business public policies in Illinois, has created unprecedented challenges for the state’s business community. Last week I was pleased to have the opportunity to attend the Chicagoland Chamber’s annual luncheon meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. The Chicagoland Chamber has gone above and beyond in meeting the challenge of maintaining our business community through the Governor’s pandemic mandates. I admire their commitment and grit as they continue to work toward making Chicago and Illinois the Tech Hob of the nation. I truly admire their leadership team’s vision and passion.

I’m shown in this photo with Brad Tietz, Vice President of Government Relations, for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

 

Governor issues 28th disaster proclamation
On Friday, June 3, Gov. Pritzker issued his 28th COVID-19 disaster proclamation and 112th Executive Order since the pandemic began.

For more than two years, the Governor has exercised emergency powers by issuing Executive Orders to control nearly every aspect of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor needs to allow the state’s Legislature to be an equal partner in the decision-making process, which is why I cosponsored Senate Bill 103, which would require the state’s Governor to request legislative approval from the General Assembly to reissue a disaster declaration after 30 days.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s allies in the Legislature refused to even assign the bill to a committee for debate. Until the Majority Party decides to step in, it appears that the Governor will continue to issue disaster proclamations for the foreseeable future.

 

Biometric privacy settlements incoming for Illinois residents
In recent weeks, several Illinois residents have been receiving a check or direct deposit for $397 from a settlement fund set up last year after Facebook agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company violated the rights of Illinois residents.

Facebook was accused of breaking Illinois’ Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA), which prohibits private sector companies and institutions from collecting biometric data from unsuspecting residents in the state or online. Under Illinois law, that data cannot be sold, transferred, or traded, and citizens are allowed to sue for alleged violations.

Now, new class-action lawsuits have begun to be filed against tech companies accused of violating BIPA, including one recently settled by Google. The tech giant has agreed to a $100 million payout and is required to provide users with a notice about the face grouping tool that triggered the lawsuit.

If you were an Illinois resident who appeared in a photo or video on Google Photos between May 1, 2015, and April 25, 2022, you have until September 24, 2022, to submit a claim on the settlement’s website. According to the class-action notice, you can get anywhere between $200 and $400, depending on court-related expenses and how many people file a claim. The final approval hearing for the settlement will take place on September 28.

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