MO Legislature passes 'steel mill bill'

Published: May. 24, 2017 at 3:13 PM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2017 at 2:11 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KFVS/AP) - The Missouri Legislature passed the "steel mill bill" on Friday, May 26.

Senators voted 24-5 on Friday to send the measure to Gov. Eric Greitens. The bill will allow aluminum smelters, steel mills and other major electricity users to negotiate lower electricity rates for longer contracts than is allowed under current law.

A Senate committee advanced the proposal on Thursday after hearing a state Public Service Commission analysis that said average consumers wouldn't see significant rate increases under most scenarios.

The analysis said that consumer rates wouldn't significantly change over 10 years if the steel mill opens. But if inflation remains consistently high, customers could see a maximum $54 increase per year after 10 years if the aluminum smelter resumes operations.

The bill passed the House 120-17 after a lively debate.

Rep. Don Rone said it's anybody's guess what will happen in the Senate. He asked for the House to approve an emergency clause so the company Magnitude 7 and a proposed steel mill doesn't have to wait 45-60 days to apply to the public service commission.

We've told you about the Magnitude 7 revamp of Noranda, and a proposed steel mill slated to be built in the Bootheel

Rone said he thinks the senators who previously opposed the bill will be okay with the changes made to the House bill, namely, removing a portion of the bill that would have allowed Ameren to raise funds to make infrastructure improvements.

If Senators make changes to the bill, the House will be back to work after Memorial Day.

Lawmakers discussed several amendments ranging from requiring any company to take advantage of reduced electric rates through the steel mill bill to offer daycare, to offering reduced rates to seniors and low-income utility customers, to adding a clause that would make a company prove its need to take advantage of these lower utility rates.

Some of the amendments will make it into the final bill, but others won't.

House leadership added the approved amendments and printed the bill. At around 4:15 p.m., the House reconvened and the steel mill bill will have its third reading, then they voted again.

Representative Don Rone, the bill's sponsor, expressed concern about how some of the amendments discussed would affect the bill's chance in the Senate, while other representatives spoke about the need to carefully consider the bill and not rush it through.

"If this amendment passes and it's attached to the underlying bill and it goes over to the Senate, they're going to strip it," Rep. Rone said. "Then we'll be back here next week."

"We want to hurry up and get this done," Rep. Deb Lavender said. "My concern is that it may not produce good legislation for the people of Missouri."

The vote prior to the recess was 125 to 15. That shows the bill lost some ground in the House from its 148-2 passage during the regular session.

The steel mill proposal that would allow steel-works companies and aluminum smelters to negotiate lower electricity rates than are allowed under current law.

Bill sponsor Rep. Don Rone said Tuesday that the bill would bring jobs back to an area that saw significant job loss when an aluminum smelter closed last year.

The proposal received overwhelming support during the regular session in the House. It stalled in the Senate over concerns about a provision that critics said could've allowed major utility companies to raise rates more easily. That provision was removed yesterday in a committee.

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Copyright 2017 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.