Governor Greitens called his first Extraordinary Session to consider legislation that would allow the Public Service Commission to negotiate and approve lower electric rates for a longer contract for manufacturers using a lot of electricity.
This legislation is necessary to attract a company to build a steel mill in New Madrid Missouri. Sumangala, a company based in India, which remained anonymous until this week, has stated they would invest $82 to $100 million on infrastructure for a steel mill creating approximately 95 jobs. Opening the steel mill would then allow the owners of Noranda aluminum smelter to reopen creating approximately 400 more jobs. Noranda closed in 2016 because high electric rates prohibited them from making a profit.
The legislation failed during the regular legislative session because a few Senators opposed a controversial provision that would allow the PSC to pre-approve increases in utility rates for grid modernization. Since the legislature adjourned on May 12, Governor Greitens has traveled the state hosting rallies and criticizing “career politicians” in the Senate for killing the proposal in the last week of session. On Wednesday, A New Missouri, a nonprofit started by Greitens campaign treasurer and other close aids, paid for buses to transport over 300 people to the Capitol to pressure legislators.
Actions on House Bill 1
- House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville) was heard Tuesday by the House Utilities Committee. The committee removed the controversial provision and by a vote of 10-3 passed it out of committee that afternoon. The House debated the bill Wednesday adding an amendment to allow any company who uses more than 50 megawatts per month to negotiate for lower electric rates after they have proven they cannot continue to operate without the discounted electric rates. By a vote of 120-17 HB 1 passed the House.
- After a lengthy discussion on the floor Thursday morning by those with concerns with the bill, the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee held a hearing on Thursday. Some of the Senators view this legislation as corporate welfare and are not comfortable helping one company over another, especially since said company hasn’t fully committed to coming to Missouri. The bill was voted out of committee 10-1 with no changes in the version the House passed. The Senate spent over four hours Friday before the Memorial Day weekend debating the House Bill 1. Two amendments were offered and debated extensively, one would have clarified the PSC’s ability to grant a preferential rate to qualifying companies the other ensured other ratepayers would not be subject to increases as a result of the preferential rate provided by the bill. Neither amendment was successful. By a vote of 24-5, the bill was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed and heads to the Governor for his signature.
More Special Sessions
The Governor has threatened to call several consecutive special sessions to pass his priorities that failed in the regular session. The Governor believes he would need consecutive sessions because his interpretation of the Constitution of Missouri allows a call for special session on one specific issue, not several issues in one session. Legislators disagree. The actual language reads: “On extraordinary occasions he may convene the general assembly by proclamation, wherein he shall state specifically each matter on which action is deemed necessary”. Several special sessions through Missouri history have been called with the Governor including multiple issues. Rumored issues Greitens would call another special session are PDMP – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, lobbyist gift ban, expansion of charter schools and prevailing wage.
Richardson to Run for Auditor?
Rumor has it Speaker of the House Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) is going to run for Auditor in 2018. History has shown that no Speaker of the House has been successful at a statewide bid. Current Auditor Nichole Galloway was appointed by Governor Jay Nixon after the death of Auditor Schweich, therefore did not have to run an election. Both have the same amount of campaign funds. Several politicians believe this scenario would leave Richardson on the same footing as Galloway in the election.
2019 Speaker of the House Race
Three representatives have thrown their hat in the race to become Speaker of the House in 2019. Current Speaker Todd Richardson will leave office due to term limits at the end of 2018. The three candidates are Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield), Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) and Rep. Robert Cornejo (R-St. Peters).
Executive Branch Appointments
The Governor appointed Steve Corsi, former director of Wyoming Department of Family Services, as acting Director of Social Services. Greitens commended Corsi for reducing Wyoming family services department’s budget by $30 million and eliminating unnecessary rules and regulations. Lee Keith was appointed as Acting Director of the Division of Financial Institutions within the Department of Insurance, Financial Institution and Professional Registration. Keith has spent his career helping turn around troubled banks in Missouri and Illinois. Corsi and Keith will begin immediately but will need to get final confirmation from the Senate when they return for next year’s session.
House Member Resignations
Rep. Tila Hubrecht (R-Dexter) announced she will resign her seat representing the 151st district effective June 2. Hubrecht told her constituents on Facebook she plans to return to private sector as a nurse. Rep. Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City) is also resigning from his seat serving the 23rd district. Dunn will be moving to Omaha, Nebraska to serve as Executive Director of Spark, a nonprofit intermediary that catalyzes redevelopment efforts in distressed neighborhoods.
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