State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, says that downstate deserves representation on the Illinois Commerce Commission that it has not received from appointments made by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
"Access to water and electricity, fair utility rates, decent cell phone and cable service, and safe railroad grades are all issues that are vitally important to rural Illinois consumers," Manar said in a news release issued Monday. "Yet no rural or downstate residents today sit on the Illinois Commerce Commission, the powerful five-member state panel that regulates utilities, approves utility rates, licenses trucking and towing companies and oversees railroad safety and crossing improvements."
Manar noted that Rauner has now appointed all five members to the commission, and none live outside Cook or DuPage counties in northeastern Illinois.
"There is a lot of Illinois outside of Chicago and the suburbs, and the people in these communities deserve to have someone on the commerce commission who will represent their interests and their point of view," Manar said.
"Our administration has worked diligently to appoint qualified experts to the Illinois Commerce Commission who meet the stringent statutory requirements," said Rachel Bold, a spokeswoman for Rauner. "These individuals are tasked with taking a broad look at the state as a whole to make decisions that are in the best interest of all of the citizens of Illinois."
In 2015, Rauner replaced John Colgan of Springfield with his appointment of Brien Sheahan, now of Hinsdale, who chairs the commission. Sheahan had been a general counsel to the Republican Party of Illinois and director of government relations for Navistar, a truck manufacturer from Lisle. He was also a senior adviser to Rauner's 2014 campaign and counsel to the governor's transition committee.
Rauner in 2015 also named John Rosales of Chicago to the commission. He had been vice president of community and governmental affairs for Coca-Cola Enterprises, and replaced Doug Scott, a former Rockford mayor who had moved to South Beloit. While Scott was from northern Illinois, politically that territory outside the Chicago area is considered downstate.
With the chief exception of a two-to-three-month gap in 2000, the commission had downstate representation for just about all of the past 100 years until the 2015 appointments.
Manar's news release followed votes Monday in the Senate executive appointments committee on Rauner's two latest appointees to five-year terms: D. Ethan Kimbrel and Anastasia Palivos, both of Chicago. Both were approved in committee and Kimbrel's nomination was approved by the full Senate 45-1, with Manar the lone vote against. Both positions pay $117,043 annually. While Palivos was appointed by Rauner in January and is an acting ICC member, the full Senate had yet to vote on her confirmation as of midday Tuesday.
Kimbrel, 47, also was appointed in January. He had earlier worked for the commission for several years, including three years as chief administrative law judge.
Palivos, 29, was the youngest-ever appointed commissioner at 28, according to her biography on the ICC website. From April 2015 to July 2016, she had been legal and policy adviser to the ICC chairman. An Illinois native, she is also the first Greek-American woman appointed the the commission, the biography said.
The fifth member of the commission, named to a five-year term by Rauner in January 2017, is Sadzi Martha Oliva of Chicago. She is a former assistant attorney general and prior to joining the ICC was general counsel of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.