JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A long-awaited economic development bill approved by the House Wednesday evening was laid over in the senate early Thursday afternoon. The bill contained an amendment (link) for Rep. Don Rone which sought to loosen restrictions on utility rate cases and also ease the entry of a possible smelter in southeast Missouri. In an outrage, Rone put up his amendment (link) to SB 124 (link).
“All we ask for out of both people down on the other end of the hall to give the PSC the right to negotiate an affordable power rate,” Rone said Wednesday, still hopeful the Senate would vote on SB 302. “[A smelter is] ready to open up the old Noranda facility in 120 days. My people lost 900 jobs, but we have the ability to bring back 500 of them.”
The amendment was approved by the House via a voice vote.
The Senate was quick to take up and discuss SB 302 briefly with bill sponsor Sen. Paul Wieland and Sen. Wayne Wallingford touting the job-creating power of the bill. Wallingford stated he couldn’t think of anything better to bring forward to create jobs.
Sen. Ed Emery, the sponsor of SB 190 – a bill the amendments are loosely based upon and had previously been resisted by other senators, said he talked to Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Daniel Hall, who has been keeping an eye on the legislation. Emery said Hall gave him his own opinion on the measure, saying it would give the PSC tools they can use at our discretion.
In a statement, Hall further clarified his support of the measure.
“In response to your inquiry about my position on 302 – I had serious concerns about 1028 and 190 because they restricted commission authority; but I do not have the same concerns about 302 because it gives us tools we can use at our discretion, after hearing all the evidence, after balancing all of the interests for purposes of setting just and reasonable rates in the public interest. This is consistent with the December 2016 Commission Report concluding our working docket on electric utility reform.”
Emery tried to alleviate concerns of fellow senators regarding profits, stating the bill will cause cost-savings which would be reflected upon other customers, keeping the impact “revenue-neutral.” Sponsor Wieland highlighted the concerns from the opposition as non-issues.
“It doesn’t cost the state a dime, we’re easing regulations, and creating jobs. This is straight from the Republican handbook, it seems to me,” Wieland said.
Emery inquired of Romine, asking what his intentions of the bill were.
“My intention for this to not come to a vote,” Romine replies.
Romine said rates increase when special rates are given.
“The dollar just gets spread out among everyone else,” Romine said. “It’s picking winners and losers.”
Fellow opposition Sen. Rob Schaaf echoed his sentiment.
“If we pass this, we’ll be giving this corporate welfare to this one steel mill at the expense of everyone else,” Schaaf says.
After the Senate laid over the House substitute for SB 302 Thursday afternoon following the inquiries, an irate and determined Rone took the mic in the lower chambers, presenting an almost identical amendment to SB 124, a bill most presume opposing Sens. Doug Libla and Gary Romine would support, especially for its inclusion of Blue Alert.
Rone’s speech for the proposed amendment to the later bill, SB 124, which was passed overwhelmingly at 148-2, was quick to spotlight senators who opposed the amendments.
“[Sen. Rob] Schaaf said it’s not right we take one industry over another,” Rone said. “We gave them tax credits at Ford, in St. Louis, we gave them tax credits in Boeing. Our people need to work.”
“I have traveled this entire United States and I’ve dealt with a lot of people in my job,” Rone continued. “I’ve dealt with some of the craziest farmers you’ve ever seen. But I don’t want to deal with the most selfish people as Libla, as Romine, in my life. Never. Five hundred shovel-ready jobs. I just don’t understand it. We shouldn’t pass anything they do because they’re heartless and they’re selfish. They are disrupting government at the state of Missouri. This is an opportunity for a whole generation in the state of Missouri. The citizens of my district will know and know and know how Libla treated them.”
SB 124 now goes to the Senate for approval.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.