Two pieces of legislation have advanced in the House that stem from what has been learned about the failure of the Mamtek sugar refinery project in Moberly. Both were offered by the representative who chaired the committee that studied that deal, Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City).
One is an amendment to HB 1455, which changes the Manufacturing Jobs Act. The other is a stand-alone bill, HB 1865. There are differences between the two, but some key provisions are found in both. They would require up-front verification of financial information by start-up companies applying for incentives, the sharing of “adverse” information received about a company and the creation by the Economic Development Department of a rating system for proposed projects. Barnes says he wanted to offer both so that the language has two opportunities to become law.
The proposals met with some opposition, especially from lawmakers who say they’ve heard from economic developers in their districts that the language goes too far. Barnes disagrees, “What my fear is, is that we haven’t gone far enough. There are a lot of other provisions our committee decided not to put forward because we wanted to put forth a proposal that should have overwhelming support from a body that generally supports protecting taxpayers. What we have is not as long as I’d like it to be.”
One of those who opposed the bill is Representative Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg). Of the provision that “adverse” information about a company should be shared, he said, “It seems like a big judgement call for these economic development corporations, also the Department of Economic Development, to determine what is ‘adverse’ and what is not ‘adverse.’ This might mean that all the companies would have to disclose all the information, and therefore be to the detriment of economic development in the state of Missouri.”
The representative whose district includes Moberly, Randy Asbury (R-Higbee), opposes the proposals. “As I read this legislation I’m unconvinced the outcome would have been any different had this new layer of beaurocracy been in place prior to Mamtek’s debut.”
Asbury disputes the requirement that start-up companies provide verification of financial information. “Just because we request financial verification for start-up companies does not mean anyone at any agency is qualified to make a better decision based on that information.” Mamtek provided a financial statement saying it had $7.2 million in cash or equivalent, but that was never verified by a third-party.
Both pieces of legislation can advance to the Senate on another positive vote. Both are likely to be voted on today.
AUDIO: Representative Jay Barnes presents his amendment to HB 1455