Electric Rate Freeze Update

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- State lawmakers are advancing another try at freezing electric rates, this time with long-term decisions about how Illinois regulates electric utilities.

A House committee today approved five-to-four along partisan lines a sweeping plan to roll back rates to 2006 levels, freeze them for a year and charge energy producers a tax to pay for the price reductions.

The plan also would fire the Illinois Commerce Commission members who approved the higher rates and create a new Illinois Power Authority to oversee power buying and eventually power production.

The utilities complained it would destroy the industry, and Com-Ed President Frank Clark called the idea "pure lunacy."

But the bill's sponsor says it could be a good way for lawmakers to force the utilities to offer a larger rate relief package for consumers.

The bill now heads to the full House where it could be voted on as early as later today.

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