Eye On Boise

FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2009, 5:50 P.M.

Senate-killed bill could be reworked

The Idaho Senate voted 17-18 on Thursday on SB 1119, the measure proposed by Avista Corp. to allow utilities to establish programs to help struggling low-income customers and cover the cost in their rates, killing the bill. Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, "Idaho utilities want you to pay the other guy's bills," and called the measure "redistribution of wealth." Sponsor Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said utilities already adjust their rates to cover costs for unpaid bills; the new measure would allow them to reach out to struggling customers before they get to that point. Avista runs a similar program in Washington and Oregon, but Idaho’s law banning discrimination in utility rates prevents the firm from offering that type of assistance program in Idaho. Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, said the bill could breed dependence. "There should be ramifications of not paying our bills," he said.

Neil Colwell, lobbyist for Avista, said Friday, "We are investigating the possibility of bringing another bill that addresses some of the issues raised during the debate."

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