Major Changes to Electricity Auction Measure Will Likely Garner Enough Votes to Pass; Jepsen: “It’s a Significantly Different Bill than Before”

Facing a revolt in the House, legislators have made substantial changes to the controversial bill that would auction the rights to serve certain electric customers in the state, changes that sources say will satisfy enough legislators for the bill to pass.

The auction is expected to bring in between $80 million and $100 million to state, making it a crucial part of the new two-year budget deal proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy and majority Democrats.

Earlier this week, critics of the auction—a coalition of Democrats and Republicans—said they had enough votes in the House to support an amendment that would block the auction. Although there isn’t a hard count yet, sources say the changes that have been made will satisfy enough legislators to vote for the bill.

“Significant steps have been taken to protect consumers,” Attorney George Jepsen tells The Hanging Shad Friday. “This is a very different bill than what it was before [the changes were made].” Jepsen, a Democrat, originally broke with Gov. Malloy and legislative Democrats and wrote a letter opposing the in its original form.

Legislators have been working on changing the bill over the last two days to make it more palatable to critics. “For instance, it now preserves the standard offer for about 100,000 people. It’s easier to opt out and there are no penalties,” Jepsen said.

Jepsen, as about a politically astute a public official as they come, said he still doesn’t like the idea of an auction. “If I was a legislator and it was a stand-alone bill, I’d vote against it. But it is so tied up in the budget, you sometimes have to swallow what you don’t like,” he said.

State Sen. Beth Bye said many Senate Democrats insisted on changes to protect consumers. “What we have now is so much better. I have said before that there needs to be protection for consumers.” she said. “If the consumers are protected the votes will be there.”

Sources say among the other changes made is that there will be a price comparison on every bill so customers will be informed. Among other changes, there will also be a box to check on the bills so it will be very simple to opt out and go back to the standard offer.

The Senate Democrats will discuss the changed bill today in a caucus. Majority Leader Marty Looney said the new bill should pass. “I think so. Obviously, it’s a substantive part of the budget.” Looney said he will support the bill as part of the budget solution.

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, a supporter of the bill, is said to be taking a count of the votes in the House Democratic caucus.

If the auction is part of the budget, things will be moving fast at the Capitol over the next few days. Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey told reporters the House will run the budget probably before the weekend is over.