STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS – THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 2010
FINEGOLD: ELECTRICITY CHOICE BILL “INCREDIBLY COMPLICATED”
The House chair of the Telecommunications Committee on Thursday was delivered petitions signed by 2,275 people, including Gov. Deval Patrick, who support legislation aimed at fostering more municipal electric companies, but told activists lawmakers need more time to work through an "incredibly complicated" issue. The committee this month voted to give itself more time - until July 14, two weeks before formal sessions end - to work on a pair of muni-electric bills (H 3087 and S 1527). Five of the six gubernatorial candidates signed the petition, with sponsors saying Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker's campaign did not respond to a request for support. After receiving the petition, Finegold said the committee was grappling with "data analysis" and the details of how to facilitate more competition in electricity transmission, the like impacts of the legislation and the logistics of how it would work. "We still need more time to examine it," Finegold told activists Patrick Mehr, Carolynn McCarthy of Lunenburg and Cathy Clark. "Staff is going to be busy. We've got a lot of work to do." The activists told Finegold they believe giving consumers more choices in the electricity arena will lower rates, improve services and help reduce energy costs that are a burden on businesses. Reps. Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenberg) and Stephen DiNatale (D-Fitchburg) joined the activists in Finegold's office to impress upon him the dissatisfaction of Unitil customers in their area with service and electric rates, which Benson said are a drain on manufacturing. "This area is the highest of the high," said Benson. "We're seeing our major employers leave." Activists earlier Thursday told reporters they believed the bills had been put into a committee extension until mid-April, but committee staff confirmed the July 14 date. A committee decision before that date is possible.