6/9/2017While it has been some time since I published a Capitol Report, much has happened. In this Capitol Report, you will hear about the May 2017 Special Session, a recently called Special Session on Pro-Life issues, and where I have been since the end of session:
SPECIAL SESSION 1.0: JOBS
The members of the Missouri House of Representatives came together at the end of last month to hear legislation aimed at bringing 500-900 of jobs to the state. As part of the first “extraordinary session” called by Governor Greitens, House Members met to discuss the merits of a bill filed by Rep. Don Rone which would allow two companies interested in setting up operation in Southern Missouri to negotiate a lower electricity rate. However, these companies would have to negotiate this special rate with Ameren, who is not the utility provider of that portion of Missouri.
According to some, the legislation was 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 Noranda. When the smelter closed last year it caused the area to lose 900 jobs. The legislation which was ultimately approved by the House 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. The PSC already has the authority to negotiate special rates for companies currently operating in Missouri, but supporters say the legislative change is necessary to grant the commission the authority to negotiate rates for new companies interested in operating in the 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 that 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. With this provision, lawmakers hope 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 as much as 190 megawatts each month, while the proposed steel mill would use between 50 and 60 megawatts of electricity per month.
To explain my vote on this piece of legislation, here is the text of what I shared online after arriving home May 24, 2017:
“Today I took the trip to Jefferson City not knowing how I would vote on HB 1 filed by Rep. Don Rone. This piece of legislation is likely going to result in anywhere from 500 to 900 jobs being brought into the Southern-most part of our state; an area decimated by poverty. As I truly understand how emotional of an issue this is to many in this state, it is my duty to separate emotions from my core, constitutional principles in reviewing bills that could impact those I advocate …for on a daily basis.
This measure would require governmental intervention in the free market, allowing the PSC (Public Service Commission) to negotiate with two new companies possibly moving into our state. Moreover, it would grant Missouri’s electric utility the ability to offer a special rate “not based on the cost of service” to the probable aluminum smelting and steel work facilities.
Per the language of the bill, in subsection 2 of section 2, Ameren is able to cover potential losses in profit by offering said special rate to two companies via increasing its rate on other customers to “ensure the net operating income of the electrical corporation.” Instead of this increase in rates being passed on to every Missourian, it would only financially impact a small portion of those in this state since Ameren does not service the entire state or even half of our state; the rate will only go up for Ameren customers like until and I. To me, this means that increasing the rates of my constituents allows Ameren the ability to offer the low rate to two new companies possibly moving here instead of the companies bearing the burden of having a business within our state… this is not right.
While the underlying outcome of jobs being brought to this State, an extremely poor part of this state, which needs them badly, the way we get there by way of the very language in this bill is deeply concerning to me and is a version of crony capitalism which is being subsidized from the pocket books of my constituents. I truly thank Rep. Rone for being a champion for his district. However, just as he represents the best interest of his people, I must advocate for the best interest of mine. While this could be a great move for this State as a whole, the possibility of piercing many families with a fiscal burden they did not bargain for is too risky for me. Moreover, I am not a fan whatsoever of government intervening to pick winners and losers in the business world, especially when our moves are reminiscent of the Obama-era “too big to fail” motto. That is why after a long time debating this issue and reviewing every amendment included within the third read version, I had to vote No.”
SPECIAL SESSION 2.0: PRO-LIFE
Lawmakers will once again return to Jefferson City to convene for another extraordinary session. This time, the Governor has called the House and Senate back to address several issues meant to “protect the lives of the innocent unborn and protect women’s health.”
Governor Greitens issued the call Wednesday of this week for multiple pro-life issues which he believe the legislature needs to work to address immediately. The two chambers will now look for legislative solutions regarding a city ordinance the Governor says has turned St. Louis into an abortion sanctuary city, while also working to implement new standards that will better ensure the health and safety of women who visit an abortion clinic.
The St. Louis city ordinance was put in place by the city as an “anti-discrimination” measure for individuals making reproductive health decisions. Critics of the ordinance say it has the potential to force charitable organizations and community groups that work with pregnant women and new moms to violate their own deeply-held religious beliefs. They say the ordinance could prevent them from refusing to hire individuals who are pro-choice advocates. They say it could also force pro-life organizations to pay for abortions through the health insurance they provide their employees. Organizations like the maternity home Our Lady’s Inn and Archdiocesan Elementary Schools have already filed a federal lawsuit against the ordinance.
Legislators will also work to implement new measures that will improve the safety standards at abortion clinics. The new standards are meant to address a court ruling that struck down laws that regulate abortion clinics. The court’s decision threw out a provision that requires abortion providers to abide by the same regulations imposed on ambulatory surgical centers. The court also did away with a law that required a doctor providing an abortion to have privileges at a nearby hospital. Both provisions were originally put into place by lawmakers to ensure the health and safety of women who utilize services provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood.
The Governor has asked lawmakers to implement “basic, common-sense standards to keep Missourians safe.” Specifically, he has asked the legislature to look at requiring abortion clinics to have an annual safety inspection. He also has asked lawmakers to consider a provision that would require abortion providers to have a plan in place in the event health complications arise. The Governor also wants a legislative fix that will prevent abortion clinics from interfering with emergency responders.
Representative Schroer Touring Missouri to Find Solutions for Infrastructure Problems
Many of you reading this have had the opportunity to travel on the many highways and bi-ways throughout our great state. As you know, some of our roadways are in need of dire repair or need to be expanded with bustling population growth. For example, Interstate 70, which runs through House District 107, is known as the first interstate in our nation. From driving from my childhood home in Ferguson, MO to our farm in Fayette, MO, our great Interstate 70 has not changed one bit from my youth. However, our population growth in St. Charles County has increased incredibly over that time.
With more families moving in means more vehicles on our roads. With more families moving in means more houses being built. With more houses being build means more trucks using and abusing our roads. I have pledged to work on finding solutions to our infrastructure issues in a very cost-effective way given that our State is in a dire fiscal situation.
Earlier this week, I spent time touring facilities which use old shingles to create asphalt which would go into making new roadways. In surrounding states, the use of Recycled Asphalt Shingles (RAS) is a cost-effective option which is stronger than concrete. Studies were presented to me indicating that if the Missouri Department of Transportation implemented the use of RAS, our State would not only benefit by having one of the most modern infrastructures in the Midwest, but it would supplement our general revenue by the savings.
Missouri Jobs for Veterans
Charter Communications announced last week plans to expand its training program for military veterans from five states to the company’s entire 41-state service area, which includes Connecticut, as it aims to accelerate a key part of its human resources strategy. Company officials described the growth of the Broadband Apprenticeship Program as an opportunity for more veterans to build careers at Charter and a boon to customers, who they said could be assured the technicians visiting their homes would have the skills and training to deliver quality service.
“Our commitment to an outstanding customer experience requires a devotion to craftsmanship among our employees,” said John Bickham Charter president and chief operating officer. “The veterans who work at Charter are best in class when it comes to so many of the key attributes of craftsmanship: punctuality, attention to detail, resourcefulness and communication.”
More than 1,000 employees are enrolled in the Broadband Apprenticeship Program across Charter systems. Missouri, where the expansion was announced last week, is one of the states where the training already runs. The program includes classroom, online and on-the-job training for technicians as they progress in their careers at Charter. Veterans discharged during the past 10 years who participate in the program can receive GI Bill benefits. In 2016, veterans comprised some 10.6 million members of the nation’s workforce, representing about 7 percent of the total. Connecticut’s working population included about 104,000 veterans, about 6 percent of the overall contingent. The national veteran unemployment rate totaled 4.3 percent in 2016, compared with an overall national average of 4.9 percent. Connecticut recorded last year a 4.4 percent veteran unemployment rate, compared with an overall state average of about 5 percent.
Representative Schroer Honors SSM St. Joseph West Employees
Earlier this year, an incident occurred at SSM St. Joseph West Hospital in the heart of House District 107. Many employees jumped quick to handle this incident. To honor all of those involved in helping handle this incident, I felt it was necessary to visit SSM St. Joseph West Hospital and honor all of those who played an integral role. I found out that many employees rushed to the hospital who were home getting ready for bed but who were made aware of the issue occurring within their second home.
I also made a point of honoring the President of SSM St. Joseph West, Ms. Lisle Wescott. Not only did she hurry to the hospital to handle the incident, she is one heck of a leader who ensured that all of the right players are in their best position in the SSM system. The largest employer in House District 107 is incredibly lucky to have her as their leader and I am happy to work with her on solving many of the issues important to you and I in our district. Honoring Our Heros
As I make my way across our State, I meet many great people. Typically, if I am meeting some politician deemed “important,” they are accompanied by our men and women in blue. As I make a point to thank our veterans and first responders for their service to our country, I ask you to do the same as it is a huge shock to some of them that they are being thanked for their service. In the next month, I am working with Arrowhead Building Supply on a vehicle I think all of you will love related to our Heros.