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Senate approves plan to provide more funding for utility training programs

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Senate approved legislation Thursday that would provide additional funding for utility training programs — through the purchase of specialized license plates.

SB 330 allows Missourians to purchase special license plates personalized with either an Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives or Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities emblem for $25 per year in addition to the state’s one-time $15 special personalized license plate fee. That money would solely be used to create or facilitate existing training programs, as directed by the Department of Revenue.

Sen. Justin Brown

Republican state Sen. Justin Brown, the bill’s sponsor who is involved with co-ops himself, said Missouri is losing young men and women wanting to be linemen to other states — such as Georgia — with more training programs. And sometimes, especially if someone doesn’t have strong ties to Missouri, he or she will end up staying out of state.

“It’s not costing the state anything, and I thought it’s a good way to help them solve a problem, and it’s not going to cost taxpayers any money,” Brown told The Missouri Times.

Currently, there are only two major linemen training programs in the state, according to Brown — one at Linn State Technical College and another at Ozark Technical Community College. 

Those who already have those specialized plates will need to be issued new ones without the emblems or opt into paying the $25 annual fee to keep the unique plates, Brown said.

Brown praised those who choose to go into this field of “very dangerous work.”

“It takes a special person to be able to be pretty cool under pressure, climbing those poles and working in bad weather, and all that,” he said. “Not everybody can do it, but you can go through a pretty short training period and make pretty good money.”

The bill was passed by the Senate Thursday and sent to the House.