SPRINGFIELD – Appointments to the Illinois Commerce Commission – the panel that approves electric rates and monitors railroad crossing safety – would be geographically balanced to ensure the interests of rural and downstate taxpayers are represented under a measure introduced this week by state Sen. Andy Manar.
Senate Bill 3626 requires that at least two commissioners on the five-member panel live outside of Chicago and the collar counties. Of the remaining three members, one would be appointed from Chicago, one from the suburbs and one would be an at-large member who could live anywhere in the state.
“The consumers I represent in the Senate work hard and want to know someone will represent their interests when the state approves electric rates or fails to address problems with rural cell phone coverage. The families in my district want to trust their teenagers will be safe driving home at night because someone on the ICC board understands the dangers of rural rail crossings where the corn is high,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat.
He added: “But right now, the 4.5 million Illinoisans who live outside of Chicago and the collar counties have no one representing their interests on this commission.”
For the first time in a century, no Downstate member sits on the Illinois Commerce Commission, the powerful five-member state panel that regulates utilities, approves utility rates, licenses trucking and towing companies and oversees railroad safety and crossing improvements.
Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed five members to the commission; none live outside of Cook and DuPage counties.
In May, Manar, who is vice chairman of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, was the only committee member to vote no on two of Rauner’s pending appointments to the commission: D. Ethan Kimbrel and Anastasia Palivos. Kimbrel’s recommendation was forwarded to the full Senate for approval, and Manar was the only senator to vote no. The appointment was approved 45-1. Palivos’ recommendation did not go to the full Senate for a vote in May.
Senate Bill 3626 does not change the existing requirement that no more than three commissioners can be of the same political party at the time of appointment. Commission terms are five years.