The future may be dimming for a bill which would change the way electricity is sold in Iowa. A bill which would let electric companies compete to provide service, just as long-distance phone companies do today, is running into big trouble. Yesterday, a few legislators were wearing buttons which said “Don’t turn the lights out on Grandma,” — evidence the American Association for Retired Persons campaign against the bill is catching on. But the most damaging development is an analysis which predicts the electric bills for many southern Iowans will go up 40 percent if the bill’s passed as rates will be “equalized” statewide. A Radio Iowa vote count found at least seven key Republicans are “no” votes on the bill. Representative Dave Heaton, a republican from Mount Pleasant, is one of them. Heaton says small business people haven’t been involved in the discussion at all.Representative Sandy Greiner, a republican from Keota (kee-oh-tuh), will be a “no” as well. She says the move would increase the cost for her constituents.Representative Frank Chiodo (chy’-doh), a democrat from Des Moines, says the legislature doesn’t have enough time to resolve all the disputes.But Representative Janet Metcalf, a republican from Urbandale, isn’t concerned. Metcalf rebutts the A-A-R-P’s claim Iowa’s elderly will be hurt by the electric restructuring bill.Metcalf says southern Iowans’ rates are being subsidized by northern Iowans — and if the bill doesn’t become law, Alliant will ask to raise those rates anyway.Governor Tom Vilsack agrees that southern Iowans shouldn’t expect their electric bills to remain as low as they are today. Vilsack says electric rates will go up one way or another for former customers of Iowa Southern, the former Centerville-based utility.Leaders of the Iowa Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union say most of their members fear the bill because it doesn’t provide assurances workers will be kept on or reassigned. But Vilsack maintains “most” utility employees are comfortable with restructuring.
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