State Senate began debating SB 228 – the Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) legislation shortly after 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon and didn’t finish until after midnight. And by the time all was said and done the bill was put on the shelf after it was filibustered and denied an up or down vote.
The legislation is being pushed by AmerenUE, the state’s largest electric utility, which wants to be allowed to charge ratepayers for the costs associated with building a second nuclear power plant in Callaway County while the facility is still being built. Opponents of the idea have claimed this is unnecessary and would burden consumers. They add there are no guarantees the company would follow through with plans to build the plant.
Debate was filled with heated discussion which included allegations of dirty tricks being played by political operatives in an effort to kill the bill. One of those confrontations was between Republican Senators Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau). Schaefer, who worked with sponsor Senator Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City) to put together this version of the bill, accused Crowell of being involved in a robo-call campaign to sway public sentiment against the idea. Schaefer suggested Noranda Aluminum of New Madrid, which has paid approximately $80,000 to fuel the effort to kill the bill, is paying former House Speaker Rod Jetton to use his influence.
“You’re telling me,” asked Schaefer, “That they (Noranda) can pay the former Speaker of the House, Rod Jetton, to make patently false robo calls and mailings.” He added that phone calls have been traced back to Crowell.
“When they called the number back,” said Schaefer. “The answering maching said, Crowell for Senate Campaign Office.”
Jetton fired back that Schaefer was getting his information from political operatives of his own. Crowell called for what he saw as a solution to the impasse – tossing out the effort to change the Construction Work in Progress law.
“Maybe Construction Work in Progress is the best way to go,” said Crowell. “How about we just delete the moratorium on construction work in progress – open bracket, closed bracket – and then send everything through the review process of the PSC?”
Dozens of amendments were drafted during the lengthy debate, with quite a few coming to the floor for discussion. One of the amendments that was approved exempts the elderly and the disabled earning under $40,000 a year from having to contribute to the construction work in progress proposal.
Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) plans to bring the parties together Wednesday morning to try to address some of the unresolved concerns.