SENATE PASSES SPECIAL SESSION BILL ON UTILITY RATES
After rejecting various amendments, the Senate on May 26 voted 24-5 to grant final approval to legislation authorizing special electric rates for certain industrial facilities that locate in Missouri. The House of Representatives passed the bill on a vote of 120-17-1 two days earlier, and since the Senate made no changes, the measure goes straight to the governor to be signed into law.
Gov. Eric Greitens called the special legislative session on the bill specifically for two proposed projects in New Madrid County in the Bootheel. One is the potential reopening of the former Noranda Aluminum smelter, which closed in 2016, while the other proposal is for a small steel mill in the city of New Madrid.
Under HB 1, the Missouri Public Service Commission could authorize Ameren Missouri to offer discounted electric rates for the facilities. Ameren’s other business and residential customers in Missouri, who are heavily concentrated in the St. Louis metropolitan area, would pay for those subsidies through higher rates and was the primary source of opposition to the bill. The bill also would allow for other investor-owned utilities to offer special rates to similar facilities elsewhere in the state, should any later be proposed.
The special session is expected to formally conclude on June 5 when the House and Senate hold procedural sessions. However, Greitens, a Republican, has indicated there are other issues he might ask the legislature to address in special session. Greitens either could add new subjects to the current session before lawmakers adjourn or call a second special session. Special sessions cost taxpayers roughly $125,000 per week, mostly for lawmaker per diem and mileage expenses.
GREITENS SIGNS BILL NIXING PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENTS
Gov. Eric Greitens on May 30 signed legislation into law that will allow local governments to pay lower wages to workers hired for public construction projects. The General Assembly granted final approval to the measure in April with nearly all Democrats opposed and all but a few Republicans in support.
Senate Bill 182 prohibits local governments from entering into “project labor agreements,” under which they agrees to pay union-level wages and follow union work rules on public works projects. Under the previous law, local officials had the discretion on whether or not to use such agreements, unless the state is paying for more than 50 percent of the project, in which case they were already prohibited.
Greitens, a Republican, signed the bill into law during a ceremony at Automation Services in Earth City, an industrial instrumentation company. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a fellow Republican who gained national notoriety for union-busting efforts in his home state, also attended the ceremony.