Senate Week in Review: June 6-10, 2022

SPRINGFIELD — Ameren Illinois customers will soon see the significant effects of the new electric rate results on their energy bills—which are expected to increase by more than 40 percent as early as later this month. Ameren is also warning of potential controlled brownouts due to a lack of energy capacity within the power grid.

In other news, a few weeks after Facebook paid out $650 million to more than a million Illinois residents for a biometric privacy settlement, Google settles its own lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Gov. JB Pritzker issued his 28th disaster proclamation, reigniting calls to curb executive power overreach.

Ameren electric rates increased

On April 20, 2022, Ameren Illinois received electric rate results from the regional grid operator (MISO), which include an increase from $5/megawatt to $236/megawatt and will now cause Ameren electric rates to increase significantly, more than 40 percent, beginning June 1.

This increase is unrelated to the increase in natural gas prices and different from what was experienced beginning in Fall 2021 when Ameren gas rates increased, causing heating bills to rise during the winter months.

The rate 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.

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. These possible electric disruptions could have an impact on not just Ameren Illinois customers, but all residents whose energy is supplied from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid.

Illinois residents who are struggling to keep up with their increased bills can reach out to Ameren Illinois to request a budget billing program that sets monthly bill amounts at predictable amounts. More information about the program can be viewed here.

Qualifying households can also take part in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the federally-funded program that provides monetary relief for energy bills. More information can be obtained by calling 1-877-411-WARM (9276) or visiting https://www.ameren.com/illinois/residential/energy-assistance/liheap .

Biometric privacy settlements incoming for Illinois residents

In recent weeks, some 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 Sept. 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.

Governor issues 28th disaster proclamation

Gov. Pritzker recently 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. State Senator Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) says the Governor needs to allow the state’s Legislature to be an equal partner in the decision-making process, which is why he 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.

The Governor’s allies in the Legislature refused to even assign the bill to a committee for debate. Senator Stewart says until Majority Party leaders decide to step in, it appears that the Governor will continue to issue disaster proclamations for the foreseeable future.

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