Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Amid Governor's Rally, House Committee Advances Bootheel Proposal

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Amid Governor's Rally, House Committee Advances Bootheel Proposal

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * A panel of state lawmakers endorsed Tuesday a plan to help bring an estimated 500 jobs to southeastern Missouri as part of a special legislative session called by Gov. Eric Greitens.

The legislation, which is designed to pave the way for lower electric rates for two industrial customers in the Bootheel region, now heads to the full House for further debate, probably Wednesday. If approved, the process would then shift to the Senate, where similar proposals have floundered in recent years.

The forward progress of the controversial plan came as Greitens, a Republican, held a fourth campaign-style rally in as many days aimed at generating support for the changes he is seeking to the state's electricity regulating agency.

After speaking on the steps of the Capitol, Greitens led attendees through the building to lobby senators who may block the bill.

Rallygoers either spoke with lawmakers directly or signed fliers reading "We don't want welfare, we want to work"and taped them to the office doors of opponents such as Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.

The measure would allow the state Public Service Commission to approve lower electric rates for an aluminum smelter and steel mill . But critics say that by loosening the regulatory process around Ameren Missouri, the monopoly utility could end up charging more to regular individual ratepayers.

The smelter would be situated at the former Noranda facility, near Marston, which was purchased out of bankruptcy by a Switzerland-based firm last year.

The steel mill owner has signed a confidentiality agreement to keep the company identity under wraps as it competes with other sites in New York and West Virginia, lawmakers said.

Democrats were uneasy about the secrecy, especially when it could result in higher electric bills for customers of Ameren.

"This is a tax. We're charging Ameren customers extra money in order to help some mystery company," said Rep. …

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