Missouri Senate passes regulatory reform for public utilities

Senate Bill 564 sets a cap on rate increases, but some say it could have unintended consequences

Advertisements

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate endured a multi-day fillibuster over Senate Bill 564, a proposal to cap public utility rate increases and alter the regulatory framework of the Public Service Commission.

The bill’s supporters say it would ensure consumers’ electric costs stay consistent between billing periods, and would provide avenues for public utility companies to update a deteriorating electrical grid.

Opponents believe the bill would hurt the PSC’s ability to protect consumers, ultimately resulting in higher rates down the road. They see it as a giveaway to moneyed interests that lobbied hard for the bill’s passage.

The issue crossed partisan lines. The legislation is sponsored by Republican Sen. Ed Emery and is supported by many of his colleagues of both political parties, but was pilloried by Republican Sens. Rob Schaaf, Gary Romine and Doug Libla, who led the filibuster against the bill. The conservative trio was bolstered by Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who joined the filibuster hours after it first began.

Under Missouri Senate rules, a single senator can hold the floor for debate on a bill indefinitely, forestalling a final vote in the process. Opposition senators began the filibuster shortly after 7 p.m. on Feb. 7. Swapping in and out, they held the floor through the night and into the next morning, all the while atttempting to negotiate concessions from the bills’s supporters. Over 24 hours later, having secured a compromise, they relented.

Senate Bill 564 was declared perfected on Feb. 8, and was officially passed by the Senate a week later. It now awaits further action in the House of Representatives.

As a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Senate, I compiled a short video on the debate for official government use. Watch the package below, and don’t forget to check out the Missouri Senate website for daily updates on the 2018 legislative session.

Republicans went nuclear — now what?

Crossroads_baker_explosion.jpg
1946 nuclear test at Bikini Atoll [Public Domain]
After a Democratic filibuster of Neil Gorsuch, Congressional Republicans have exercised the “nuclear option,” dismantling the requirement of a 60-vote cloture movement before voting on Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch can be confirmed with a mere 51 supporting senators, an up-or-down vote scheduled for Friday.

So what now?

Two law professors write in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that we should “stop worrying and learn to love the nuclear option.”

On the other hand, an opposing law professor writes a piece for U.S. News arguing that to kill the filibuster is to “kill trust in the court.”

When all is said and done, at least one thing is certain — it will have been an excellent day for C-SPAN ratings.