Missouri lawmakers react to upcoming special session

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JEFFERSON CITY – Days after lawmakers finished the legislative session, they'll be heading back to the statehouse next week.

Gov. Eric Greitens called for a special session on Thursday to discuss progress on the so-called "steel mill bill," which has been amended 11 times to its current language since introduced as S.B. 302 in January. This bill could allow Ameren to charge lower electric rates in Southeast Missouri in an attempt to bring a steel mill to the area.

In a press release from Greitens’ office, he issued a statement that said “We are fighting to bring more jobs to the people of Missouri. Some career politicians failed to do their jobs and then went home. That’s wrong. We’re canceling their summer vacations and calling a special session to get this done.”

Missouri lawmakers are mixed on potential implications of the special session.

Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Jefferson County, said it could provide 500 family-sustaining jobs and help lawmakers consider similar opportunities for the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) that may apply to other parts of the state in the future.

“If we don’t go into special session and wait until next year, that opportunity is going to pass them,” Wieland said. “We’re not going to get those jobs, so that’s the urgency of why we are going to the special session.”

Wieland is optimistic about the bill, but said the largest obstacle in moving forward was working around a filibuster supported by three senators.

One of these lawmakers, Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, said he was concerned about Ameren becoming involved with the language of the bill to support its involvement with the PSC.

“It needs to be simplified to just deal with the economic development of bringing jobs into the state,” Romine said. “If we can just focus on that issue, I think it will be a worthy session. If it’s anything other than that and special interest gets involved, then it could frustrate the process.”

Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff said the situation is one that should bring attention to Missouri ratepayers.

“I have fought vehemently against monopoly companies trying to diminish the oversight of the Missouri Public Service Commission,” Libla said. “PSC is the only commission that looks out in prize to keep these monopoly companies under check on whether or not they’re deserving to have a power-rate increase.” 

Other Missouri officials issued statements in press releases regarding the special session.

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said “It’s deeply discouraging that an opioid epidemic ravaging Missouri communities is apparently so low on the Governor’s list of priorities that it wouldn’t make this agenda of a special session—and I urge him to reconsider.”

Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber said, “After spending the session bickering with each other and failing on big issues like ethics reform and the opioid epidemic, Missourians are now footing the bill so the dysfunction of Eric Greitens and Republicans in Jefferson City can go into overtime.”

The special session will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, May 22.