Emery, Romine spar over utility bill in morning inquiry

Sen. Ed Emery testifies on his bill SB 98 Feb. 21, 2017.

Jefferson City, Mo. – The debate and filibuster over a proposed utility bill in the Missouri Senate continue to make appearances on the floor.

SB 190 was brought forth once again on Wednesday morning for perfection, with the sponsor of the bill and the lead opponent exchanging words on the controversial legislation.

Sen. Ed Emery is the sponsor of the bill, seeking to establish the Missouri Economic Development and Infrastructure Investment Act, a bill which Sen. Gary Romine has been a vocal opponent of.

Sen. Gary Romnine

Sen. Gary Romnine

Emery appealed to Romine for an inquiry, saying that since they were using session time, maybe they could have a constructive discussion over the bill.

When Emery asked Romine what he saw in the future if they did nothing now, Romine said he didn’t see a need for any changes.

“If history is a good indicator at all, then we’ll have a successful and reliable grid meeting all of the needs of our constituencies,” Romine responded. “Do you think this bill going forward has anything to do with the stock value, the market value of utility companies. Do you think it will increase their value on the stock market?

“No, I don’t,” Emery said.

“I’m sorry, but the bill is about Ameren’s stock value and what’s going to happen to it if this bill is passed,” Romine said.

“I don’t have a problem with Ameren, KCP&L or Empire being successful,” Emery said. “Certainly, their management, their business plans have an impact on that. One of the agencies that is there to make sure that happens is the PSC.”

Emery said that the job of the PSC is to make sure the companies are liable, and to make sure they are efficient and reliable. If they’re not holding up to those standards, it’s the PSC’s job to regulate them and find out why.

Romine fired back, saying that the PSC did not ask for this legislation, questioning why it was needed.

“If the PSC is our watchdog, then I do not see the PSC telling us they need something fixed in the ratemaking process,” Romine said. “The very thing this bill is offering is things the utilities have been taken in and denied by the PSC. We’re mandating them.”

“I understand you’re making the presumption that it’s self-serving. But what happens in a regulated monopoly happens in the private sector. Whatever the structure is, everyone in it should be working for whatever is best.

If there’s any compromise to be made between the two, it didn’t seem clear how they might arrive at that path right now. After speaking to the bill for roughly a half hour, Emery asked that the bill be laid on the informal calendar once again.

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