As weekly readers, you know the Regular Legislative Session for 2017 ended on May 12. However, there was ongoing conversation about Governor Greitens calling a special session to accomplish some legislative topics that did not cross the finish line during the regular session. Late last week, the governor did call one of these special sessions to discuss a bill that would allow two companies interested in setting up operation in Missouri to negotiate a lower electricity rate. In turn, the bill would allow for the creation of approximately 500 jobs in southeast Missouri. Most of this week’s Capitol Report is dedicated to this topic.
House Sends Jobs Bill to Senate (HB 1)
The General Assembly began meeting for a special session this week. Bills were filed Monday, and committees met on Tuesday. The full House met yesterday (Wednesday, May 24) to approve HB1, a piece of legislation meant to bring hundreds of good-paying jobs to the state.
The legislation is necessary to bring one company with plans to open a steel mill in southeast Missouri, and a second company that wants to reopen an aluminum smelter formerly operated by the Noranda corporation. When the smelter closed last year it caused the area to lose 900 jobs. If Missouri can entice the two interested companies to move forward with their projects, they would create as many as 400 new jobs at the re-opened smelter, and at least 95 jobs at the steel mill.
The legislation passed by the House on Wednesday would authorize the Missouri Public Service Commission to approve a special, lower rate for a longer contract of service for companies like the smelter and steel mill that use tremendous amounts of electricity-in other words, negotiate rates for bulk buying. The PSC already has the authority to negotiate special rates for companies currently operating in Missouri, but this legislative change is necessary to grant the commission the authority to negotiate rates for new companies interested in operating in our state.
The bill approved by the House would include not only the two proposed projects, but also any new facility that would use more than 50 megawatts of electricity per month and can show a true need for the special rate. The final bill also includes consumer protections to ensure the PSC keeps the cost to other ratepayers in mind with any special rate it approves, an attempt to keep costs from being shifted to other customers.
The special utility rate is important for Missouri to be able to compete with other states that can offer cheaper rates to attract businesses that consume large amounts of electricity. The lower rates are vital for a smelting operation like the one under consideration. The now-closed Noranda smelter consumed as much electricity as the city of Springfield. The new smelter would use up to 190 megawatts each month, while the proposed steel mill would use between 50 and 60 megawatts of electricity per month.
The legislation approved by the House includes an emergency clause that would allow it to go into effect as soon as it is approved by both chambers and signed into law by the governor. Time is important because the company interested in building the steel mill hopes to decide on a location in June. Indications are that this bill will position Missouri as the company’s top option.
HB1 now moves to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate approves the bill as it was passed by the House, it will then go to the governor. If the Senate makes changes to the legislation, the House will then either accept those changes, or head to a conference committee where negotiators can work toward a compromise.
Remembering and Honoring America’s Heroes
America is a land of prosperity, a land of opportunity, and a land of freedom, but it is all of these things only because of the heroic men and women who have fought, and in many cases given their lives, to make the United States the greatest nation in the world. It is on Memorial Day that the nation pauses to honor and remember the heroes who so selflessly gave all so that Americans could live in peace and safety.
In the wake of the terrorist attack in England that killed 22 people, the job done by America’s heroes to keep the nation safe takes on added significance. The attack is a reminder that there are those in this world who wish to harm the innocent, and to bring chaos and destruction to peace-loving nations. The threats are a reminder that out nation must remain ever vigilant, and that its heroes must continue to risk their own safety in order to preserve the American way of life.
Memorial Day is a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made, and the lives that have been lost to make America what it is today. It is intended to be a somber day of remembrance when Americans place flags and flowers on the graves of fallen heroes. This Memorial Day it is important for all Missourians, and all Americans, to spend some time in remembrance and reverence of those who have given all.