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ISRS legislation stalls in Senate

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Just after spring break Sen. Brad Lager, R- Nodaway, predicted after the PSC agreed to hear Sen. Eric Schmitt’s, R-St. Louis County, request for more information that the electric ISRS legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Kehoe, R-Cole, was unlikely to pass.

“There are many important pieces of legislation on the Senate calendar,” said Senator Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau. “We can either spend the next two weeks voting on those important pieces of legislation, or we can spend the next two weeks debating ISRS and never achieve a vote on this or anything else.”

He may have been proven right after three and a half hours of filibustering Wednesday night by Senators Mike Parson, Rob Schaaf, Doug Libla, Wayne Wallingford, Gary Romine and Dan Brown.

“For all intents and purposes electric ISRS is dead,” Lager said.

“Missouri’s General Assembly needs to address the state’s long term energy policy,” Irl Scissors with Missourians For a Balanced Energy Future said. “The ISRS legislation is a step in that direction.  ISRS will not only create jobs, but it will establish a manageable rate structure that will encourage business growth and protect consumers. For the sake of all Missouri’s electric consumers, the legislature should not miss this opportunity.”

Opponents of the ISRS amendment said they had seven senators willing to filibuster Wednesday night with up to five more on-deck to assist their colleagues.

Schaaf employed the tactic of asking for a quorum call and encouraging senators who are “not in favor of higher electric rates” to avoid the chamber.  The tactic seemed to be gaining momentum as the last quorum call took nearly five minutes to achieve 18 senators present.

“I really viewed this as a huge tax increase on the seniors in my district,” Schaaf said. “The industrials were the canary in the coal mine here tonight, if it was a rate increase on them then it was also certainly to be an increase on our seniors.”

After several hours of congenial debate between senators, Lager, Emery, Kehoe and Parson engaged Libla and discussed his feeling that he was lobbied by a former Public Service Commission chairman to support the electric ISRS legislation in the Senate side gallery.

“This was just a bad policy, it was a backdoor tax increase that would have had a devastating effect on businesses,”  Libla said.

Chris Roepe with Fair Energy Rate Action Fund said he thinks consumers are pleased to see an outpouring of opposition to higher utility rates and an expensive new surcharge.

“These senators know that giving Ameren and other utilities a blank check at the expense of families and businesses is terrible for our economy,” he said. “Our consumer coalition will continue to fight these misguided rate hikes until the end of session.”

Senate Bill 207, sponsored by Senator Kehoe that included the ISRS language was introduced early on in session with 17 co-sponsors including the President Pro Tem of the Senate Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, and the Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Newton.

Lager referenced Schmitt’s request to the PSC for an opinion on SB 207. After a lengthy discussion the PSC decided to offer an opinion on the legislation. The PSC announced that the ISRS legislation would lead to nearly $600 million in increased rates over the course of the next 4 years.

“I would like to see more input and more information as opposed to less on this very important and very complicated issue,” Schmitt said at the time he made his request.

Over the weekend there were several compromise proposals floated by the utilities in an effort to reach an agreement.  Most are proposals to enact ISRS being offered by Ameren are meant to exempt industrial customers and including a seven percent cap with a 12 year sunset and the removal of a business expense tracker.

However, the new proposal from KCP&L still include the business expense tracker. “I can’t imagine the legislature has the appetite to go back and deal with electric ISRS after what has unfolded over the last five weeks,” Lager said.

To contact Scott Faughn, email scott@themissouritimes.com or via Twitter at @scottfaughn.