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Legislature Rejects Flat Rate Electric Bill Proposal, 182-49

By Marc M. Sadowsky

The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday rejected an initiative petition by a vote of 182-49 that would have increased Harvard's electric bill by about $1.5 million.

But the proposal is far from dead. Fair Share, a consumer lobbying group, collected 68,495 signatures on the petition calling for uniform rates per kilowatt hour for all customers. Fair Share must start a new petition and gather about 10,000 signatures to get the referendum on the ballot in November.

A Fair Chance

If the referendum appears on the ballot, it has a very good chance of being enacted, James Katz, research director of Fair Share, said yesterday.

Katz said that a poll conducted for Fair Share by the Research Analysis Corp. of Boston found that 73.9 per cent of the registered voters interviewed favored the proposal.

"You can't tell now what the people will do in November," Rep. George Keverian '53 (D-Everett), the majority whip, said yesterday. Keverian said that no commercial enterprises are going to absorb the costs because all costs will be passed on to the consumer.

More than 50 per cent of the increase Harvard might face could be made up by conservation measures, Leslie E. Thomas, manager of utilities for the Department of Buildings and Grounds, said yesterday.

Layoffs Seen

An econometric model worked out by George Treyz, an economics professor at UMass-Amherst, estimated that between 12,000 and 41,000 people would lose their jobs when manufacturers move out of Massachusetts to avoid the increased electric rates.

These figures spurred a compromise proposal which would have exempted manufacturers from flat rates, but this proposal was rejected by the legislative leadership.

Hatch Act

State Rep. Francis W. Hatch Jr. '46 (R-Beverly), the minority leader, said the petition would be a "disaster for the Commonwealth" yesterday in a speech before the House of Representatives.

Hatch cited figures showing that electric bills for tenants in low-income housing projects with centralized metering would increase by about 27 per cent.

Keverian said that the rejection of the compromise might constitute a challenge to Fair Share because the legislature thinks the referendum will have trouble passing in November.

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