Senators sound off as special session begins
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the Senate convened Thursday morning, senators sounded off in what could be compared to an airing of grievances.
Several senators spoke about their concerns with the legislation sent to them by the House Wednesday, others spoke about potential ethical lapses by the Gov. Eric Greitens’ nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc., as several senators discussed issues they were still angry about from regular session.
Sen. Bill Eigel led a slew of inquiries with Sens. Jill Schupp, Rob Schaaf and Andrew Koenig regarding the bill, which he regarded as corporate welfare for a single company* reportedly interested in building a steel mill in the Bootheel region of the state. Eigel believed that the legislation passed by the House would essentially subsidize a building project that could bring as many as 500 jobs to one of the poorest parts of the state since ratepayers may see their rates increase
“Every one of my constituents, every one of them, will pay for that difference for an area that’s not in Ameren’s territory,” Eigel said. “As difficult as it is to say, we can not set state policy to place the burden of up to $160 million a year on the backs of 1.2 million customers of Ameren in the state of Missouri.”
Sen. Gary Romine, who has been a key figure this week due to his longstanding opposition to grid modernization (the second part of the governor’s call), seemed to defend the bill, saying the earnings from the new massive power consumers could completely offset the lower rate. He added that he has helped “massage” the bill and worked on language throughout the week to guide what the Senate would eventually hear.
Beyond debates on the legislation, Schaaf spoke at length about the rally held by Greitens and apparently largely funded by the political nonprofit that supports him. Various media outlets reported A New Missouri, Inc. not only bussed in several rally goers, but they also bought pizza for them.
To Schaaf, this constituted as a lobbyist gift because A New Missouri, Inc. should have a designated lobbyist as they were trying to influence legislation due to robocalls in some Senate districts over the past weekend. He added the ideal person for the job would be Austin Chambers, who both works as a policy advisor to Greitens and works for the nonprofit.
“It is my belief that would have been a gift to the governor,” Schaaf said of the buses and pizza. “He can either accept a gift… or he can personally reimburse A New Missouri for the cost of the gift that A New Missouri paid for all of that food and transportation.”
Schaaf has had significant beef with A New Missouri ever since it published his personal cell phone number on social media ads in April. He pushed for legislation that would reveal donors of “dark money” groups like A New Missouri, so named because the source of their funds is not required to be disclosed.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal however aired a much more personal beef on the Senate floor, criticizing those who opposed legislation to buyout homes some people fear suffer from health problems due to radioactive waste dumped in the West Lake Landfill decades ago. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency, which has jurisdiction over the site, reported it found no evidence of radiation danger outside of the West Lake Landfill.
* – Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post Dispatch broke news on Twitter that the India-based Sumangala Steel was the company. They also reportedly emailed and confirmed that the Southeast Missouri site had made a “advanced stage of short listing” along with other sites. Rep. Don Rone, the author of the bill, has said they company is also looking at locations in New York and West Virginia alongside Southeast Missouri.
— Tony Messenger (@tonymess) May 25, 2017