Capitol Report – Allen Andrews
Lawmakers concluded their business in quick and efficient fashion during a special session as the House and Senate worked to get a jobs bill across the legislative finish line in a matter of days. Called back for an extraordinary session by the governor to pass legislation that could bring 500 good-paying jobs to Southeast Missouri, legislators began their work on a Monday and secured approval for the bill from both chambers by that Friday.
The legislation approved by the General Assembly would let the Missouri Public Service Commission consider lower utility rates for two companies that are exploring options in Southeast Missouri. One company hopes to reopen the Noranda aluminum smelter near Marston, which closed last year and caused the loss of 900 jobs in the area. The other company has plans to build a new steel mill in New Madrid. 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 reopened smelter, and at least 95 and as many as 200 jobs at the steel mill. The jobs at the smelter are expected to pay an average annual salary of $95,000.
Under the bill, the PSC would be able 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. The final bill could be used not only to lure the two proposed projects, but also any new facility that would use more than 50 megawatts of electricity per month and that can show a true need for the special rate. The bill also includes consumer protections to ensure the PSC keeps the cost to other ratepayers in mind with any special rate it approves. With this provision, lawmakers hope to keep costs from being shifted to other customers.
Supporters say other customers of Ameren have no need to worry about increased utility rates because of the bill. They say the PSC has indicated ratepayers wouldn’t see an increase in their bill if the new steel mill opens. If the aluminum smelter reopens, the commission has indicated consumers could see a maximum increase of $54 per year after 10 years if energy-cost inflation would rise by 10 percent annually. However, supporters say that isn’t likely to happen.
The bill now moves to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Indications are that the governor will sign the bill this week. With his signature, the bill will take effect as law immediately. Supporters pushed for the immediate effective date because the company that plans to build the steel mill wants to make a decision on a location in June.
As always, it is an honor to represent you!
Allen Andrews, State Representative – District 1
Missouri State Capitol, Room 135AB, 201 West Capitol Avenue, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or Telephone: (573) 751-9465 or Allen.Andrews@house.mo.gov