We were out of Session last week for Easter Break but there was still a lot going on in Jefferson City. From what I hear, the Senate has patched up their differences and will be tackling the Budget on their return. Bill filing is now closed and all the Committee Chairmen are setting their schedules for hearing the last of the House bills and preparing to hear Senate bills. We are now entering the season of compromise. Many House and Senate bills are very similar. When they take up our measures and vice versa, subtle changes are made to clarify or add language to the bill to include the sponsor’s issues. The average number of bills that become law each year is about 120. This year we have had a record number of bills filed and frankly, a lot of good bills will never get a chance to be heard. There is only so much time and each side of the aisle set their priorities early on in Session so there is ample opportunity for those issues to move forward.
I’ve been asked to explain why the Electric Companies are requesting small rate increases. The EPA has mandated that our power companies reduce their CO2 emissions by 25% over the next few years. Since we already have the cleanest coal burning plants in the world, they will have to be converted to natural gas. We have 56 coal-fired units in Missouri generating almost 54% of our total electric needs (and that need is growing daily). It takes approximately four years to build a gas unit and they cost $625 million in today’s dollars. The power companies are also expected to provide a percentage of the electric generating capacity in the form of renewable energy. I think you can see that this is going to be a horribly expensive proposal and it is certain to raise our costs. How much, we really don’t know but if we follow the rules that are in effect today, the increases will all come at once when the upgrades are completed. The estimates I’ve heard run from 25% to double our current bills. When we built the grid back in the 50’s and 60’s, the state waived the rules and let the power companies take small increases as they were building. That way, we saw gradual increases instead of getting hit with the whole thing at once. As it stands today, the EPA is insisting on the elimination of coal fired generation units and the power companies across America have to build new gas fired units to replace them. I know that’s not what we want to hear, but those are the facts.
I had a fun day on Wednesday. I started off with a speaking engagement at Thomas Jefferson School. My job was to tell them about my career and how I got into politics. Then I was supposed to explain why public service is important for all of us. By the time I got through preparing for the speech, I had a different viewpoint on what is really important. Sometimes we need to step back and look at the world around us. They were a great bunch of kids and they had some really good questions after I spoke. Wednesday evening we attended the Connect2Culture event at the Joplin High School Performing Arts center. What a treat! The United States Army Field Band & Soldiers Chorus put on a two-hour concert that was absolutely amazing.
Thursday evening the Republican Club met and enjoyed a fine meal and presentation from the 4H club. We are blessed with some amazing leaders and they are doing a great job of preparing our young people for the future. They have plans to do a statewide stream clean up this summer so watch for their ads and help with some funding if you can.
Saturday morning we went to Fairview for a bake sale benefiting their summer kids athletic programs. Just what I needed, another bunch of fattening stuff! It looks so darned good that I have to buy some!
Next week should be interesting as we start work on some of the Senate bills and overrides. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, I am and remain in your service