Missouri lawmakers have gathered for a special session in Jefferson City. Apparently, they didn’t do enough damage before adjournment May 12.
Gov. Eric Greitens called the session to consider an economic development proposal in the state’s Bootheel. Lawmakers want to give the Missouri Public Service Commission the ability to approve lower electricity rates for an aluminum plant and a proposed steel mill in the region.
Greitens sells the proposal as a way to create jobs in the state. Opponents of the plan, including many Republicans, think cheaper electricity for a business will actually mean higher utility bills for individuals and small businesses.
Shelling out more for electricity will make it harder for homeowners to pay for other expenses, depressing the economy in one of the most depressed areas in the state.
And there are larger concerns. Some lawmakers think the proposal would provide Missouri utilities with routine rate hikes not allowed under current state law.
“This could lead to unnecessary rate increases,” said a statement from state Sen. Doug Libla, a Republican from Poplar Bluff.
“All it would do is benefit the utility company,” he said. “This would leave businesses and families vulnerable to monopoly utilities.”
We don’t automatically rule out state support for businesses. In 2010, for example, Missouri lawmakers met in a special session to consider $150 million in tax breaks for Ford’s Claycomo plant.
They approved those incentives — after a filibuster — saving thousands of jobs in the Kansas City area.
But the legislature should consider the impact on all Missourians if this special interest bill were to become law.
Lawmakers and the governor also should show a bit more leadership in considering bills like this. It will cost taxpayers roughly $100,000 a week to keep the General Assembly in session, with just one bill on the table.
Had the governor pushed this proposal harder during the session, the bill might have been considered in regular order.
Greitens took a gratuitous slap at lawmakers by claiming he was calling them back from “vacation” to consider the electricity measure.
That sounds like something a career politician would say. Most lawmakers, unlike Greitens, have jobs away from Jefferson City.
In fact, reports that Greitens might keep lawmakers together to consider other bills in the days ahead are troubling. Lawmakers couldn’t finish work on a prescription drug monitoring program, for example, or ethics reform.
The governor now suggests he’ll keep legislators in Jefferson City to consider those issues and others.
Special sessions must be used only in extraordinary circumstances, not as an antidote to weak leadership.
This week, Greitens and legislative leaders should adhere to that guideline by keeping the special session short and on point — and not using it as a do-over.