A filibuster largely facilitated by four state senators – three Republicans and one Democrat – has extended into Thursday afternoon.
Three GOP members who strongly oppose a utility bill currently in the chamber began the delay tactic Wednesday.
The key components of the legislation allow state-regulated investor utilities to invest more than $1 billion in infrastructure upgrades while limiting rate hikes to three-percent a year.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Ed Emery of Lamar, says there’s a growing consensus that the state’s 100-year-old energy regulations are hurting Missouri’s economy and impeding modernization of the power grid.
His upper chamber colleagues who are filibustering the measure think it’ll cede too much authority to the utilities and cause a surge in rate hikes.
At one point in the overnight hours, Senators’ Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff and Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph chanted together as they criticized the what they call the monopoly status of the state’s three regulated power companies, Ameren Missouri, KCP&L and Empire District.
Libla: “They already own the golden goose, not just Ameren, but the other two monopoly utilities we got. They already own the golden goose.” Schaaf: “I know, and they want more.” Libla: “And the goose goes”…(Both Senators together) “Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching, ching, ching, ca-ching, ching, ching, ching”.
The senators often targeted various fellow Republicans, including Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard of Joplin, for favoring a bill that is opposed by numerous large employers in their districts.
Senator Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph criticized the chamber for focusing on the utility measure instead of legislation that most Republicans agree would slash wages on public works projects.
“How come prevailing wage isn’t the bill that we’re right here negotiating right now,” said Schaaf. “But no, we have to do a bill for Ameren, which has given $1.2 million to the politicians in this building.”
Schaaf later corrected himself, noting Ameren contributed more than $800,000, while the other two utilities donated the balance of the $1.2 million.
At another point during the all-night session, Senator Schaaf appeared to threaten to “blow up” the chamber if its GOP leadership used a technical maneuver to end the filibuster.
Republican Senators’ Bill Eigel of Weldon Spring and Gary Romine of Farmington also played roles in the marathon.
At roughly 7:45 a. m., Democratic Senator Maria Chapelle Nadal joined the filibustering Republicans on the Chamber floor, where she said the utility bill contained numerous objectionable components, including one that she said would cause large rate hikes on her constituents.
Chappelle Nadal was stripped of her committee assignments last year after igniting controversy when she wrote on Facebook that she wished for President Trump to be assassinated.
A Jefferson City-based surrogate for Ameren Missouri pushed out a statement early Thursday morning, noting the utility bill now contained language that ensures large sums of money the power companies will realize from a corporate tax cut passed by Congress will pass on to customers.